NEW DELHI Dec 10 Russian conglomerate Sistema
has warned India that a lack of progress in a
dispute over telecoms licenses is putting bilateral relations at
risk ahead of a visit by President Vladimir Putin later this
The dispute is already an issue in Moscow's dealings with
India, a key ally since the Cold War and a major client for
Russia's weapons systems. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin
raised the case when he visited India in October.
The delayed delivery of an aircraft carrier to India is
another point of tension between the traditional allies.
"Failure to resolve this case could threaten India's broader
diplomatic interests with Russia and standing in the global
business community," the company said in a strongly worded
letter sent to the government and seen by Reuters.
In the letter, Sistema said that unless there was a quick
solution, the dispute would overshadow Putin's visit.
"(It) is certain to distract the participants from other
pressing bilateral issues," said the letter, signed by Sistema's
General Counsel Anya Goldin.
Sistema's venture in India is 17 percent-owned by the
Russian government, and the company says it invested $3.2
billion before India' Supreme Court in February ordered the
government to cancel the licenses in reaction to a corruption
Sistema, which has investments in companies ranging from
telecoms to oil, challenged the court order and wants the
government to find an alternative solution to avoid
"We understand this is a major issue for them," an Indian
government official told Reuters. The official confirmed the
government had received the letter, dated Dec. 6.
Sistema declined to comment on the letter.
In response, several Indian officials will meet Sistema on
Tuesday, the source said, but reiterated the government position
that the case was a matter for the courts.
Another official said the government was in dialogue with
the company but that there was no easy solution.
In February, Sistema sent a notice to the Indian government
citing a bilateral treaty between India and Russia and asked
India to "amicably settle" the dispute in six months. Sistema
had said it had the right to approach an international tribunal
and seek damages if the dispute was not resolved.
"The right of arbitration, nobody can take away from them,"
said the Indian official, who accepted the dispute could feature
in Putin's visit on Dec. 24.
Putin postponed a visit to India that was widely expected in
early November, shortly after Rogozin's trip. The cancellation
was blamed on scheduling issues.
(Reporting By Devidutta Tripathy and Frank Jack Daniel;
Additional reporting by Maria Kiselyova in MOSCOW; Editing by