February 20, 2009 1:58:43 am
Just as India grudgingly prepared itself to re-negotiate with Russia on its demand to more than double the original cost for aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov,Moscow has conveyed another shocker to New Delhi that the deal will cost another $700 million.
This makes the deal worth $2.9 billion,which is almost thrice the original amount agreed upon when the agreement was first reached on January 29,2004 by the NDA government for $974 million. While India did expect cost-escalation to the tune of $350-400 million in the course of refurbishing the old ship,Russia stunned India by proposing a $1.2 billion hike in November 2007 that pushed up the cost to $2.2 billion.
It took several rounds of official-level talks and then the visit by Defence Minister A K Antony to Moscow for the UPA government to consider Russias request. Finally,the Cabinet Committee on Security gave its approval in December,around the time Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was visiting India,to renegotiate the Gorshkov deal in view of the cost escalation.
However,India has now been informed that on February 10,Medvedev signed on a final deal amount of $2.9 billion after thorough analysis of the refurbishing and trial costs. This was conveyed by a Russian team thats here for talks on the deal. Its headed by Deputy Minister in-charge of Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation Alexander Fomin and includes Nikolai Kalistratov,Director General of Sevmarsh Shipyard where the Gorshkov is being refurbished.
The revised offer has surprised the Indian delegation stunned as it was expecting to find some middle ground to the earlier proposal made by Moscow. India has already paid $500 million as per terms of the initial contract. The Russian delegation has said that regardless of the outcome of this round of negotiations,Sevmarsh wants an immediate payment of $190 million for the work thats underway.
While this wavering by Russia could set off a diplomatic row,Moscow is firm that it will meet the delivery deadline of 2012. The first of the series of trials,the Russian team has said,would start next year. However,the trials alone have been estimated at $500 million which could increase depending on prevalent oil costs.
Sources said Russia wants to ensure it bears absolute no cost in the entire deal. Admiral Gorshkov,which has not sailed much while in active service after it caught fire,needs to be completely refurbished. While India is building its own indigenous aircraft carrier,the progress has been slow and the date of completion has now been pushed to 2014-15.
2004-09: A 5-YEAR RUSSIAN DRAMA
Jan 2004: Original deal signed by NDA government to purchase the carrier and complement of MiG 29 K fighters for $974 mn.
April 2007: Russia says cannot deliver on time,also need to increase price as shipbuilders underestimated amount of work required
Nov 2007: Russia says the Gorshkov will cost India another $1.2 bn
Feb 2008: A team headed by the Defence Secretary inspects the Gorshkov
May 2008: India makes an advance payment of $250 mn,pending price re-negotiations
June 2008: Russia puts extra workers on the job,says more advance payments needed
Dec 2008: CCS gives approval to re negotiate contract. By now,India has paid $500 mn extra
Jan-Feb 2009: Final round of negotiations on
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