We are being unfairly judged on security concerns: Etisalat

Embroiled in 2G scam due to its association with Swan Telecom, UAE-based Etisalat on Wednesday said as a multinational company it is concerned about its image, as well as its country’s, because of allegations that it poses a security threat to India.

The company is facing allegations that it may pose security threat to the nation due to its presence in the neighbouring countries, especially in Pakistan.

“We believe we are being unfairly judged on this... We operate in all markets according to local laws, and to international best practices. Our operations in India are no exception.

“There is no data sharing between any of our 18 operations. The board members for India, Afghanistan and Pakistan are completely different and all entities are managed as separate organisation,” Etisalat Senior Vice—President, Corporate Communications, Ahmed bin Ali told PTI.

There are other companies in India, including other telecom firms, which have greater involvement in these markets than Etisalat does, he said. “Iur stake in Pakistan’s firm is as a minority shareholder, whereas other companies are majority shareholders and they have been granted FIPB approval,” he added.

Etisalat is 60 per cent owned by the UAE government. Both Etisalat and the UAE enjoy a very close relation with India, Ali said and asserted that Etisalat’s eligibility to buy a stake in Swan Telecom, now Etisalat DB, was never in question.

“We have since faced challenges obtaining approval from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) to increase our stake in Etisalat DB. We have applied for approval and our application was rejected... Indeed, our network has already been certified as secure by the Indian security agencies,” he claimed.

Etisalat DB (originally Swan Telecom) was awarded a licence in 15 circles, including Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Bihar, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Mumbai, Punjab, Tamil Nadu (including Chennai, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh (East), Uttar Pradesh (West) and Madhya Pradesh.

Etisalat, as a foreign partner, holds a 45 per cent equity stake in Etisalat DB. DB Realty holds the rest of the stake.

The Department of Telecom (DoT) has sent notices to Etilsalat DB along with other new operators for cancelling their licences as it failed to start services even after two years of getting spectrum, which is a violation of the licence terms and conditions.

The company is in the process of filing its response within the stipulated 60—day period and will clarify that it had already rolled out commercial operations in all 15 service areas.

The CBI has arrested Etisalat DB’s former Managing Director Shahid Balwa for his alleged involvement in the 2G spectrum scam of 2008. After his arrest by the CBI, Balwa had resigned from his post.

The company is under the scanner of various government agencies like the CBI, a Joint Parliamentary Committee and Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.

Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee has summoned DB Etisalat CEO Atul Jhamb in connection with the 2G scam.

The original holder of the licence (Swan) is also facing charges of acting as a front company for a leading business house in India and the matter is being investigated by the CBI and other agencies.

Talking about Etisalat’s relationship with Chinese companies, he said Etisalat is sourcing equipment from the same Chinese companies that supply equipment to other telecom service providers.

“There has never been any issue with supplies made by Chinese company to Indian telecom companies. Therefore, this should not be a reason for security concern,” he said

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2021 9:40:15 AM |

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