Indian Navy’s purchase of US troop carrier draws flak


New Delhi : The Indian Navy’s purchase of a 36-year-old troop carrier from the US drew flak in parliament Monday with the government being asked to make a statement on the circumstances under which the ship had been bought.

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“What is most disturbing is that the seller is imposing restrictions on the manner in which we can use the ship,” Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) member Tapan Kumar Sen said while speaking about the purchase of the INS Jalashva during question hour in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house.

“The restrictions are an affront to our sovereign rights. To impose inspections on us is a very serious matter,” he maintained.

He also noted that India had purchased the ship “even though the US Navy had discarded it because it had no need for such a vessel”.

“We demand that the government make a statement in the house along with giving an assurance that inspections will not be permitted to take place,” Sen stated.

As Deputy Chairman K. Rahman Khan moved to the next item of business, the CPI-M’s Sitaram Yechury stood up to demand that the government should be directed to make a statement.

“I can’t do that. This is zero hour,” Khan replied.

India’s audit watchdog has also flayed the purchase of the Jalashva, saying the flouting of norms during the negotiation period had led to huge cost overruns.

In his report for 2006-07 tabled in parliament Friday, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had criticised the purchase of “an ageing 36-year-old foreign ship from a foreign government after refurbishment at a cost of $50.63 million without physical assessment of the ship.”

“The poor condition of the ship entailed significant changes in the scope of the refurbishment work, with the cost of this going up from $15 million to $36.94 million. The navy did not bring all costs for consideration of the competent authority while seeking approval,” the report noted.

The ship, formerly the USS Trenton, had been inducted into the Indian Navy last September. In December, six sailors died when they inhaled noxious fumes while the ship was engaged in an exercise in the Bay of Bengal.

The Indian Navy had felt the need for augmenting its amphibious landing capabilities in the wake of the 2004 tsunami when its rescue and humanitarian efforts were hampered due to lack of such ships.