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Russia is close to selling aircraft carrier to India

Russia is close to signing a contract with India for the sale of the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, Jane's Defense Weekly reported Tuesday.

A high-ranking Indian navy delegation visited the headquarters of Russia's Northern Fleet and inspected the carrier, and a final decision by New Delhi is expected soon, the respected military magazine quoted a Russian defense ministry source as saying.Built in 1987, the 44,500-ton carrier was withdrawn from service in 1995.

Talks between India and Russia about a possible sale started in 1994 and resumed in December when Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais visited New Delhi, Jane's said.

According to the magazine, India will need several hundred million dollars to buy armaments and aircraft for the carrier if it goes ahead with the purchase.

Jane's quoted sources in Moscow as saying India may choose Russian Su-33 carrier-based fighters rather than British Sea Harrier and Russian MiG-29K, which it had been considering earlier.

Russia and India have had extensive military ties for decades.

Jane's said recent Russian naval sales to India, estimated at about $1 billion, include two submarines and three frigates armed with anti-ship missiles.

Meanwhile, India's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party pledged in its election manifesto to develop nuclear weapons if it comes to power, party sources said on Tuesday.

The sources said the manifesto would promise a reevaluation of nuclear policy, which would include exercizing the option to introduce nuclear weapons and speed the development of the Agni series of intermediate-range ballistic missiles.