India says Wal-Mart looking at its own internal operations following lobbying disclosure

Last Updated: Mon, Dec 10, 2012 11:13 hrs

Reacting to reports of Wal-Mart Stores preparation of its entry into India's supermarket sector in 2010 with a USD 100 million investment into a consultancy with no employees, no profits and a scant USD 14,000 in revenue., Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said the company is looking into its own internal operations.

The company, called Cedar Support Services, might have been a more obvious selection four months earlier, as it began its corporate life as Bharti Retail Holdings Ltd, according to documents filed with India's Registrar of Companies.

The investment by Cedar Support Services is now the focus of an investigation by India's financial crimes watchdog into whether Wal-Mart broke foreign direct investment rules by putting money into a retailer before the government threw open the sector to global players.

Wal-Mart said it was in compliance with India's FDI guidelines, and had followed all procedures. It said the Indian Government had sought "information and clarification", which Wal-Mart has provided.

Khurshid added that there is a law in America that prohibits companies and people to use money in an unwholesome manner.

"Well, I have no knowledge of this. I believe, what I hear from your reports, it has been doing some exercise in looking at their own internal operations. Given that there is a law in America, that doesn't allow people; American companies to be using money in an unwholesome manner and I think that's an internal enquiry. If something comes of it, I am sure it will be available to us as well," he told reporters in New Delhi.

Commenting on the sensitive issue of border dispute with China, Khurshid said that the situation was gradually improving and posed confidence on the resolution of the complex subject.

He hoped that change of guard in China would facilitate bilateral talks.

Amid growing international fears over the potential for naval clashes in the disputed region, the Indian Navy Chief Admiral D.K Joshi said that the force was prepared to deploy vessels to the South China Sea to protect India's oil interests there.

India has sparred diplomatically with China in the past over its gas and oil exploration block off the coast of Vietnam. China claims virtually the entire mineral-rich South China Sea and has stepped up its military presence there. Other nations such as Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia have competing claims.

"Well, I think you can expect very slow, but steady improvement in the overall situation in terms of results that you get from talks. You can't have any immediate results, because it is a complicated area and a sensitive area for both sides. I think we are moving in the right direction and are moving in a very sensible way and in a manner that is comforting for both sides," he said.

Meanwhile, on December 6, Maldives won a court case allowing it to cancel a $511 million airport development contract with India's GMR Infrastructure, clearing the way for it to take over its main airport.

The contract for Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, agreed in 2010, was the largest foreign investment in the south Asian tropical island chain famous for its luxury beach resorts popular with honeymooners and scuba divers.

Khurshid added that the issue was essentially legal and hoped that termination of the GMR's Male airport project by the Maldives government would not impact its relationship with the neighbouring country.

"Not to my knowledge, I have been saying that this is an issue that was essentially legal in nature and we hope on behalf of India that this will not be used or allowed to be used by any fringe political group as something to do with deterioration of the relationship between Maldives and India, which we value enormously on both sides and I am glad that the matter seems to be proceeding along those lines that there will not be any misuse of this for political purposes," he said. (ANI)

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