Sistema telecom issue not judicial but political: Russian envoy

Sistema telecom issue not judicial but political: Russian envoy New Delhi: An upset Russia Friday said the issue of Sistema telecom was not "judicial" but "political", maintaining that the cancellation of the firm's 2G licence was "not fair" to which India asserted that it was "sensitive" to their concern and hoped the issue will be addressed.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid hoped that when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will meet with President Vladimir Putin, India would have "adequate answers", if the issue was raised, that would bring comfort.

Addressing a press conference here, Russian Ambassador to India Alexander M Kadakin said, "Very active talks are being held between Sistema and the concerned Indian Ministries. I hope it is resolved. There is no problem that is unresolvable in Russia-India relations."

He also said, "And for us it is not a judicial matter. No, I am very much against this. This is a political issue for Russia because we have an agreement that safeguards each others' investments."

When asked about Kadakin's remarks, Khurshid said, "I could be critical as well. But it will not help. We are bound by the judgements of the courts and because of the difficulties that we felt understanding the law, we preferred an advisory opinion."

The minister also said the Supreme Court has not advised on the "fifth question" in relation to the matter. "So there are important questions, particularly the 5th question" that deals with the relief when there are international obligations, he said.

The minister said this will be brought to the notice of the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court and "they might want to take a fresh look at this. In the absence of the Supreme Court giving a very clear guidance on this, there isn't any executive decision that can be taken."

Khurshid also made it clear that India was "sensitive" to Russia's concern. "Issues of concern will be taken up and will be addressed...There are no insurmountable issues," he said.

"There is a concern felt... We are sensitive to that concern. We are trying to address that concern in one way or the other. We are hopeful that those concerns will get addressed. I cannot put a timeline on it. I hope that when the Prime Minister meets with President Putin, if this topic comes up, we will have some adequate reply ready which will bring some comfort, I believe," Khurshid added.

Sistema holds 56.68 percent stake in Sistema Shyam
Teleservices Ltd whose 21 out of 22 licences were cancelled by the Supreme Court in February on the grounds that the 122 permits issued by the then Telecom Minister A Raja were "arbitrary and unconstitutional". Russian government holds 17.14 percent stake in SSTL.

"It is not just the private money. My money is there. My money as a tax payer is involved. Close to USD 1 billion (tax payer's money) has been invested," Kadakin said.

The Russian envoy also added, "They are very diligent and bonafide investors. They did everything according to the 2008 regulations. They have not broken any rules or regulations of India. And all of a sudden they are hit...Is this fair? No it is not."

PTI