India bids to woo Russian investors

Though uncertainty looms over the fate of Russian company Sistema JSFC’s venture in the Indian telecom sector, New Delhi has told Moscow that it should not prevent the two countries from making efforts to boost bilateral trade and economic ties.

India also hopes to move towards launching negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement with the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to New Delhi next month. New Delhi is also pushing for a India-Russia joint investment fund to promote infrastructure projects in both countries.

“We need to work closely with our Russian friends to push some major investment projects. While we seek to constructively engage on some investment episodes, which have become irritants, we must ensure that they do not become deterrents for further forays,” said Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai.

He was referring to the row over cancellation of 2G licences awarded to Sistema Shyam Teleservices Limited (SSTL), a joint venture of Sistema JSFC and Shyam Group of India. The Supreme Court had on February 2 ordered cancellation of 122 telecom licences, including 21 of SSTL, awarded in 2008 during the erstwhile telecom minister A Raja’s tenure.

Moscow had earlier conveyed to New Delhi its concern over cancellation of the licences, stating that Sistema JSFC’s experience might discourage other Russian companies from investing in India.

“We hope to start focused discussions soon on a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement with the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus,” Mathai said at the sixth India-Russia Dialogue promoted by the Observer Research Foundation and the Russkiy Mir Foundation.

The Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus came into existence on January 1, 2010, after the three countries agreed to remove custom barriers among themselves and move towards economic integration. Russia is also keen on bringing Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan into the Customs Union.

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