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Indian Navy Chief backs Gorshkov cost

A file photo of Admiral Sureesh Mehta.

NEW DELHI (PTI): With the CAG slamming the Government for buying the second-hand Admiral Gorshkov at the price of a new aircraft carrier, Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta has defended the price being paid by India for the warship.

I can't comment on the CAG. But you all are defence analysts, can you get me an aircraft carrier for less than $2 billion? If you can, I am going to sign a cheque right now, Mehta told reporters on the sidelines of the 'Naval Self Reliance Seminar' organised by CII here on Thursday.

In its report, the CAG had 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 its refit and repair.

The Russians have thrice revised the price of the Admiral Gorshkov since 2007 and have made a final demand of additional $ 2.9 billion this February. India is carrying out final price negotiations with Moscow and is willing to pay around $ 2.2 billion for the ship.

During the Question Hour in Rajya Sabha yesterday, Defence Minister A K Antony had said that the Government would agree to a fresh price for the warship only after going through the audit report.

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