New Delhi: "Pay up $2 billion more for the aircraft carrier Gorshkov, or else we call off the deal" - that was the Russian threat on Friday. But if the Russians had expected the Indians to whimper and comply, they were sadly mistaken.
Former Indian Navy chief, admiral (Retd) Arun Prakash said, "This is nothing but sheer, bare-faced blackmail."
Russia suddenly upped the price three years after it signed a $750 million contract for supplying the refurbished Admiral Gorshkov to India. However, the Navy Chief gave enough indication that India's patience with Russia was running thin.
Indian Navy Chief, Admiral Sureesh Mehta said, "I don't think that there is anything like they taking advantage of us, because we can also put our foot down and say it's a government to government contract."
Under pressure, India snubbed its tough talking Navy Chief last year and agreed to renegotiate the price. But with Russia now serving an ultimatum, opinion in India is building up against the deal.
Admiral Arun Prakash says, "The long-term price that we pay for 25 years of mischief, of twisting our arm will be much more than what we pay now."
But India urgently needs a replacement for its only aircraft carrier, the ageing Viraat. The indigenous carrier is still many years away. So, can India do without the Gorshkov?
Admiral Arun Prakash says, "I don't think there will be a catastrophe if we don't get the Gorshkov. India can do without carrier for a year or two. There is a doctrine built around carrier battle groups, but a void can be managed for sometime by other strategic measures."
'Call the bluff and draw the line' - that's the Navy's message for the Government at the moment.