Four countries seeking redressal after Supreme Court's cancellation of licences in 2G case

The Centre has expressed its helplessness in bailing out foreign telecom firms after the Supreme Court cancelled over 120 licences in the wake of the 2G spectrum scam.

This message from South Block will serve as the common government response to four countries seeking redressal for their Supreme-Court-order-hit telecom companies, was conveyed by Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai to First Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Andrei Denisov during Foreign Office talks here on Thursday, said government sources.

Japan, Norway, Russia and the United Arab Emirates have raised diplomatic dust here after the Supreme Court cancelled licences in which their companies — NTT DoCoMo, Telenor, Sistema, and Etisalat respectively — had substantial stake. The apex court cancelled most of the licences held by Indo-Russian joint venture Sistema Shyam TeleServices (SSTL), in which Sistema had made substantial stake.

After Mr. Denisov said Sistema had become an unwitting loser even though it had followed all the norms, Mr. Mathai suggested mounting an appropriate legal response. Russia and Norway, in particular, have been vocal about their companies becoming victims of the judicial system even though their investments were vetted at each stage by the Central Government.

But Sistema has a special resonance in India-Russia ties. It is not only the first major Russian investment in the Indian consumer and services sector, but its chief Vladimir Yevtushenko, considered close to the Kremlin, co-chairs the India-Russia CEOs council and holds the key to Indian investment in the lucrative Trebs and Titov gas fields in north-eastern Russia.

The cancellation of the licences led to Moscow warning of a drop in foreign investments from Russia and in a statement pointed out that “SSTL has been made responsible for the fact that the licence-issuing procedures established by the Indian telecom authorities were at variance with the country's legislation.”

Mr. Denisov also gave the same arguments — that Sistema and SSTL had been affected despite correctly following all the procedures laid down by the Indian authorities.

Space sector

Russia and India also touched on the space sector, especially the use of Russian satellite chain Glonass which the Indian military wants to bank upon as an alternative to the U.S.-based GPS for satellite navigation and location. India began taking an interest in Glonass — which is still evolving — after it found that the United States had blocked or corrupted GPS signals to the Iraqi military during its invasion of the country in 2003, as a result of which, Iraqi missiles went off the intended target.

Officials suggested little progress since last December when India had agreed to receive precision signals from Glonass which will enable the military to fire missiles, including from the nuclear submarine, Chakra, within half a metre of the target.

The two sides also discussed protocol and consular issues, including the visit of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for the BRICS summit later next month and the issue of acquiring a better property for the Indian mission in Moscow.

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