New Delhi: Cabinet minister Kamal Nath, who may have an expanded portfolio in the new government, championed the cause of Indian companies going overseas and acquiring firms in his previous stint as commerce and industry minister. With Bharti Airtel Ltd and South Africa’s MTN Group Ltd announcing that they are back in talks for an eventual merger, Nath spoke with CNBC-TV18 on the strategic implications of the deal. Edited excerpts:
Step forward: Cabinet minister Kamal Nath says South-South cooperation has been a cornerstone of the government’s policy. Sanjit Das / Bloomberg
Airtel and MTN are back in merger talks. Your first reactions?
Well, it is a very good announcement. It is a very meaningful partnership between two large telecom companies and it represents a continuing engagement between India and the African continent, particularly South Africa. We have been working towards greater South-South cooperation and two large telecom companies getting together shows the synergies in our two countries.
To some extent, some of the policy changes made by the last government have actually contributed in enabling such a deal. But there are some issues with regard to capital account convertibility which are perhaps coming in the way of a fuller merger immediately. Are you satisfied with the foreign direct investment (FDI) clarifications and do you think the process will be taken forward?
Well, this is a continuous process and as new things keep being thrown up, we will move on. We were looking in 2004 at $2.4 billion as FDI and it went up to $35 billion—so this is a continuous process, and as we move on and as India engages more and more in terms of investment, and of course investment is now a two-way street, investments into India and...from Indian companies all over the world will increase.