India assures Russia over addressing Sistema issue (Lead)

Syndicated from IANS | Published on Fri, Dec 21 2012 20:18 IST | 3 Views | Add comment
New Delhi, Dec 21

Ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit here, India Friday said "issues of concern", including that of the Sistema investment, will be addressed and Moscow stressed that the two sides are in touch to resolve the contentious issue.

"Issues of concern will be taken up and will be addressed... There are no insurmountable issues," External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said at a press briefing here.

"We have good relations with Russia and we want to strengthen and enhance it," he said ahead of Putin's annual summit meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here Monday.

Russian Ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin indicated that the two countries had not found a solution to Russian telecom giant Sistema's over $3 billion investment in India.

Voicing Russia's unhappiness over the Sistema deadlock, he asked why should the Russian company "be trawled into the same basket along with other crooks".

The envoy said the relevant ministries are actively in touch over the issue to find a solution and stressed that given Moscow's special ties with New Delhi, Russia has not resorted to international arbitration. There is no issue that can't be resolved between the two countries, he added.

Kadakin wondered why India could not protect the Sistema investment, particularly since the two countries have a bilateral investment promotion agreement between them.

Earlier this month, Sistema said it will seek "billions of dollars" in damages from India if the licence cancellation issue of its Indian telecom venture Sistema Shyam is not resolved in time.

The issue has been hanging fire ever since the Supreme Court passed an order in February cancelling all 122 telecom licences, including of Sistema Shyam Teleservices, following allegations of bribery and corruption in the allocation of 2G spectrum.

Sistema has challenged the court order. It wants the Indian government to find an alternative solution to avoid international arbitration.

Khurshid also said the apex court "may take a fresh look" at the issue.

"When the prime minister meets with President Putin, we will have some adequate answers ready that will bring comfort" to both sides, the minister said.

He also said that the apex court had not taken up a "fifth question" in relation to the matter.

"Since the question was not answered, we will draw the court's attention and bring it to its notice."

Sistema JSFC holds 56.68 percent stake in SSTL, which operates under MTS brand and the remaining was held by Indian group Shyam. The Russian government has 17.14 percent stake in Sistema.

During his visit to India Oct 16, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin had obliquely warned India not to "reconsider the rules of the game once the game has begun".

"And we should hold the rules till the game is over," he had said and stressed that it was "very important to fulfil the agreements".

"If there are scandals, this will scare business communities," he stressed.

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