Russia has finally handed over refurbished, Soviet-era aircraft carrier to India five years late and way over budget, damaging ties between the countries.
The Russian deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, and India’s defence minister, AK Antony, took part in a ceremony at the Arctic port of Severodvinsk on Saturday morning, Russian news agencies reported.
The handover underlined close defence ties between Russia, the world’s second biggest weapons exporter, and the world’s largest weapons customer, India.
The refurbished Soviet-era ship is 284m long, has a crew of 1,600 and can carry 30 aircraft including MiG-29K fighters. It is India’s second aircraft carrier.
|India buys 60 per cent of its arms from Russia [File: AFP]|
It was first commissioned by the Soviet navy in 1987 as the Admiral Gorshkov. It has now been renamed the INS Vikramaditya after an Indian emperor.
The ship will now be escorted to India in a two-month voyage from Russia’s northern coast.
Under the original deal signed in 2004, Russia agreed to modernise the mothballed carrier for by 2008. But the deadline was regularly extended, and costs blew out from an original $771 million to $2.3 billion.
Russia says that the original deadline was based on an incorrect assessment of the amount of work that needed to be completed by its Sevmash shipyard, which specialises in nuclear submarines.
Russia’s long-delayed upgrade could damage its prospects as a supplier to India, who is currently on a push to modernise its mostly Soviet-era military, and plans to spend $100 billion in the next 10 years doing that.
India buys about 60 per cent of its arms needs from Russia, but has recently turned to Israel, France, Britain and the United States for weapons.