Russia raises Sistema issue with Sharma

Sharma invited investments in the Indian pharma sector for setting up joint ventures with Russian firms.

Updated: Jun 22, 2012, 00:35 AM IST

New Delhi: Russia Thursday raised the issue of its telecom company Sistema's investments in India with Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and sought an amicable solution to the issue.

"Russian side raised the issue of the impact that the Supreme Court judgement in the 2G case has had on the Indian investments of Sistema in the telecom sector. They said that Russia values India as an important investment destination and sought and amicable resolution," an official release said.

Sharma is on a two-day visit to Russia for St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2012.

In his meeting with Deputy Prime Minister of Russian Federation D Rogozin, Sharma assured "full representation of Sistema's case during the legal process through continuous dialogue between Sistema and the Department of Telecom," the release said.

The Supreme Court in February had cancelled the 122 2G spectrum licences, granted by former Telecom Minister A Raja on the ground that they were issued in a "totally arbitrary and unconstitutional" manner.

These included 21 licences of Sistema Shyam Teleservices (SSTL), which operates under the brand name 'MTS'. SSTL is a and JV between Sistema and Shyam. Sistema holds 53 percent stake in SSTL.

To continue operations in India, SSTL needs to buy 2G spectrum through the auction that is due before August 31 as per the Supreme Court order.

Telecom regulator Trai has recommended a base price of Rs 3,622 crore per megahertz (MHz) pan-India spectrum for 1800 Mhz band, which is almost 10 times higher than the price at which 2G licences bundled with 4.4 MHz spectrum were allocated in 2008.

Sistema had warned that it will pull out of India if Trai's proposals on spectrum auction are accepted by the government in their present form, saying the base price for airwave auction should be kept at Rs 1,658 crore.

Sharma invited investments in the Indian pharma sector for setting up joint ventures with Russian firms.

The Industry Minister pointed out that Indian pharmaceutical products are of international standards and cheaper than other markets on an average by 30-40 percent.

He also pressed for streamlining registration process, sharing of information on drugs that are imported by Russia and on assessed production volumes of strategically identified medicines.

Rogozin proposed to take the discussions further on joint production of civilian aircraft. Earlier this year in March, the first formal talk between the two sides on this issue took place here during then Russian Deputy Minister Manturov's meeting with Secretary (Civil Aviation).

Sharma said India will be guided by the experts on how to take this further and sub group on aviation will, among other issues, take this up.

It was noted that that the level of bilateral trade and investment between India and Russia remains below its potential.

Both sides need to make sincere and concerted efforts and to take specific measures including thrust areas, to achieve the target bilateral trade figure of USD 20 billion by 2015.

In 2011, the two-way trade between India and Russia was in the range of USD nine billion.