New Delhi: Responding to criticism levelled by the government Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) that the government was paying out lavish sums of money for a second-hand Russian aircraft carrier, the Admiral Gorshkov, navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta hinted Thursday that matter may not be as simple as perceived by the auditor.
"I can't comment on the CAG. But you all are defence analysts, can you get me an aircraft carrier for less than two billion dollars? If you can, I am going to sign a cheque right now," Adm Mehta told reporters on the sidelines of the 'Naval Self Reliance Seminar' organised by CII.
|Image: US Navy|
In its report, the CAG noted that till 2008 the escalated cost of the aircraft carrier was about $1.82 billion and another $522 million for the sea trials, which was originally pegged at $27 million in the 2004 contract.
India had bought the 45,000-tonne Gorshkov from Russia in January 2004 at a total cost of $974 million, which included the cost of its refit and an additional $500 million for the supply of an air complement to arm the ship. These included a newly developed, carrier-borne version of the MiG-29 ('K') and Kamov-31 ASW and AEW helicopters.
Claiming drastic underestimation in the original cost, since 2007 the Russians have gradually escalated the price of the Admiral Gorshkov and are sticking to a final estimate of $2.9 billion. India looks likely to compromise on a figure of around $2.2 billion for the ship.
On Wednesday, defence minister AK Antony informed the parliament that the government would agree to a fresh price for the warship only after going through the audit report.