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Antony's Moscow visit may not resolve Gorshkov issue news
14 October 2009

New Delhi: It now appears that the renegotiated contract of the ex-Russian carrier Adm Gorshokov (re-designated INS Vikramaditya) is not likely to be settled in the course of Indian minister of defence AK Antony's three day visit to Russia. Antony commences a visit to Moscow today where he will co-chair the ninth meeting of the India-Russia Inter Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC) along with Russian defence minister AE Serdyukov.

AK Antony, Indian minister of defenceThe IRIGC-MTC is an annual meet, held alternately in India and Russia, and conducted at the level of defence ministers of the two countries. The meet reviews and discusses matters related to bilateral defence cooperation between the two countries.

The current meet, which will be held on 14-15 October, is expected to focus on the extension of the existing IRIGC-MTC for a further 10 years - from 2011 to 2020. The agreement was sealed in December 1998, and is valid up to 2010.

The discussions at the commission level are likely to pave the way for conclusion of an extension to the agreement during Indian prime minister's Dr Manmohan Singh's forthcoming visit to Russia in December 2009 for a summit meet between him and Russian president Dimitry Medvedev.

Both sides have held several rounds of talks since 2007 to settle the vexatious issue which primarily concerns price escalation of the refit programme of the 45,000-tonne carrier for the Indian Navy without reaching agreement.

Indian ambassador to Moscow, Prabhat Shukla, told media at a briefing in Moscow ahead of Antony's visit that negotiations on the carrier's price hike were still on. According to Shukla, the last round of talks was held in New Delhi this month and the next round was scheduled for mid-November in Moscow.

The Admiral Gorshkov refit contract was signed in 2004, at an initial cost of $1.5 billion (Rs6,952 crore), which envisaged modernisation of the carrier for $750 million (Rs3,474 crore) and the balance earmarked for the purchase of 16 MiG-29K carrier-based fighters to be based on the Gorshkov.

The refit programme ran into problems with Russia saying it had underestimated the scale of modernisation and it needed extra funds to complete the programme. Though it is agreed in principle that Russia will be paid an extra amount the quantum of payment is yet to be decided on.

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Antony's Moscow visit may not resolve Gorshkov issue