Indo-Russia military ties on a new high

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Moscow, Mar 13: Indian Navy Chief Admiral Suresh Mehta will arrive here today on a week-long tour to strengthen military ties and service-to-service contacts between India and Russia.

Admiral Mehta will also discuss the issues related to the speedy delivery of the heavy aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov to India. His trip follows the recent visit of Indian delegation, led by Defence Secretary Vijay Singh, last month to resolve the price escalation issue and delivery schedule of the carrier. Mr Singh alongwith with Indian ambassador to Moscow, Prabhat Shukla had travelled to Sevmash shipyard in northern Russia's Severodvinsk city to personally inspect the condition of the carrier and shipyard's hull-welding workshop to find a reasonable solution to the issue. He also discussed with Sevmash officials various aspects of the carrier's modernisation. Admiral Gorshkov was to be delivered to the Indian Navy by August this year, according to a contract singed in 2004, but Russia stunned India in November last by demanding additional 1.2 billion dollar.

India had originally contracted the deal for 1.5 billion dollar.

Due to the price escalation issue, the modernisation of the carrier is substantially lagging behind the schedule and it may not be completed until 2012.

''First of all I would like to clarify that at no point of time Russian government has said that they will take back the deal unless it is settled in such and such time limit,'' Defence Minister A K Antony said last week, referring to the continuing negotiations on the Gorshkov deal.

Admiral Mehta, who is also the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, will visit Sevmash shipyard where the 44,570-ton carrier is berthed for retrofitting for the Indian Navy.

The contract to deliver the carrier to India includes modernisation of the ship and equipping it with modern weaponry, including MiG-29KUB fighter and Ka-27 and Ka-31 anti-submarine helicopters.

The Indian ambassador will host a reception in honour of Admiral Mehta later today.

Admiral Mehta is also expected to fly on a MiG-29KUB fighter tomorrow, before travelling to Sevmash shipyard.


UNI

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