Vikramaditya, another shining example of our long-standing ties, says Antony

Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Saturday called Russia a “time-tested friend” with whom India enjoyed a “special relationship.”

With Russian help, India had survived many challenges and grown in military might, Mr. Antony told the media aboard the newly-inducted aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya. “Today’s handing over [of the carrier] is yet another shining example of the long-standing relationship between India and Russia. After nine years of waiting, at last the Indian Navy [has] got the Vikramaditya. There was a time when we thought it would never materialise, but the Navy, the government, the Russian Navy, the Russian government, the Sevmash Shipyard [which modernised the carrier] and its crew worked tirelessly and overcame the challenges,” said Mr. Antony about the long-winding and protracted carrier reconstruction project that had, at times, threatened to jeopardise the Indo-Russian relationship.

Mr. Antony said the carrier was just one of the many important military projects India had with Russia. Refusing to divulge details about the forthcoming India-Russia Intergovernmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation meeting in Moscow on Monday, the Defence Minister said discussions would be held for further expansion of military cooperation in various fields. He offered no response to a question whether the lease of a second nuclear submarine would come up for discussion at the meeting.

Mr. Antony showered praises on Sevmash Shipyard, Russia’s nuclear submarine-building facility, for taking up the carrier project — its first — and doing a commendable job of it. “The project would have been given by the government of the day with great hope. There were delays, but we now realise that there were real challenges [in its execution].

Earlier, speaking at the commissioning ceremony, he termed the transformation of the carrier as an engineering marvel, which had tested the professionalism, capability and perseverance of the Indian Navy and the Russian industry, especially the Sevmash Shipyard. He expressed the hope that Russia would extend India all possible support to ensure that the ship functioned effectively for the duration of its expected operational cycle of 25 years.

Asked whether Indian pilots were qualified to operate MiG-29k fighters from the carrier deck, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral D.K. Joshi said flying operations had been partially begun — full operations would be possible only after the carrier reached India.

Sources told The Hindu that fighter operations from the carrier’s deck would take place within weeks of the carrier’s arrival at Karnataka’s Karwar in January.

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