A senior navy officer facing a sex scandal probe for his alleged involvement with a Russian woman while being posted in Russia to supervise the refit of the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, will be sacked soon, Indian Defense Minister Arackaparambil Kurian Antony said Saturday.
Commodore Sukhjinder Singh’s fate was sealed after his conduct during his three-year posting in Russia from 2005 to 2007 was found to be unbecoming of a navy officer for being intimately involved with a local woman.
“He (Singh) will be discharged. He will not be in service now,” Antony told reporters on the sidelines of a function to induct US-built C-130J aircraft into the Indian Air Force.
Asked if his discharge from service will be in the form of a ‘Withdrawal of Pleasure’ by President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, one of the procedures for sacking commissioned officers of the armed forces, Antony said: “It is only a matter of formality.”
Commodore Singh, a one-star navy officer, was India’s pointsman in Russia to ensure the smooth, on-time refit and repair of Admiral Gorshkov.
The controversy over his relations with the Russian woman erupted in early 2010 following the leaking of explicit photographs in which the two were shown involved intimately.
The photographs formed a major part of evidence to indict him in the navy’s court of inquiry against him.
Moreover, the row came at a time when India and Russia were finalizing the increase in the cost of the aircraft carrier’s repair. India finally agreed to pay $2.34-billion for the second-hand aircraft carrier in February 2010.
The aircraft carrier was originally bought by India in early 2004 for $974 million and rechristened INS Vikramaditya. The deal also included 16 MiG-29K fighter jets, for another $526 million, to operate on board the warship.
While Russia has delivered the ship-borne fighter jets to India, the warship itself is expected to be inducted only by late 2012 or early 2013. The navy is expected to place an order for 29 more MiG-29Ks to shore up its air-arm.
The aircraft carrier contract involved its repair and refit at the Russian Sevmash shipyard, which is currently in progress.
In 2007, the shipyard first demanded a hike in payments for the refit program and had at one stage cited $2.9-billion as cost of the works, which included additional retrofitting, additional wiring, weapons, and communication systems that India had sought.
Singh was posted as the Indian warship production superintendent overseeing Gorshkov’s refit in Russia from 2005 to 2007. After his return to India, he continued to be linked with the warship’s refit program as the principal director (aircraft carrier project) based in New Delhi, where he served till mid-2009.
He was later posted to the Defense Ministry’s Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA), but was relieved of his responsibilities in April last year after the navy ordered the probe against him in connection with his liaison with the Russian woman.
The Admiral Gorshkov deal itself was slammed by the Comptroller and Auditor General in a report a year ago, for buying a used warship at a huge cost, while a swanky new one could be purchased for a price slightly over what India was now paying.