The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi turns up Polaris heat

New Delhi, Dec 18: Demanding the early release of Polaris Software Labs chief Arun Jain and his senior colleague, India today told the Indonesian leadership that his “illegal detention” was creating a bad precedent which may deter potential foreign investors from investing in that country.

Delhi told the authorities in Jakarta that if need be, the two senior Polaris executives would be made available to Indonesia later for questioning, but they should be released immediately.

Making it clear that Delhi was treating the issue seriously, foreign minister Yashwant Sinha today called up his Indonesian counterpart Hassan Wirrayuda to lodge a strong protest over the manner in which the two company officials were being treated by the police in Jakarta.

Sinha demanded their immediate release while making it clear that Indonesia’s conduct was “unbecoming” of the relations between the two countries. “We don’t expect this from any civilised country, specially a friendly country like Indonesia,” Sinha told Wirrayuda.

To keep up the pressure, secretary in the foreign ministry R.M. Abhyankar summoned Indonesian ambassador Zakaria Soemintaa Tmadja to South Block for the second day today. Tmadja was clearly told how the Indian government and the people looked upon the issue. Expressing Delhi’s “urgent concern”, Abhyankar told him the case should be resolved immediately.

Tmadja was told that Polaris was a well-known software company, not only in India but elsewhere in the world also. The manner in which its top executives were being treated in Jakarta would create a bad precedent that could hamper future investment in the country.

“This is a commercial dispute and that is the entire point of our taking this up in strong terms,” foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said. He emphasised that there were ways of tackling such disputes, and arbitration was one of them.

AFP quoted Indonesian police spokesman Zainuri Lubis as saying that the two Polaris executives were being questioned at the national police headquarters in Jakarta.

He has said the two were detained after Indonesian bank Artha Graha filed a complaint over what they called a business dispute of about $1.3 million.

The banks’ legal counsel, Victor B. Laiskodat, was quoted as saying that Polaris did not fulfil its obligations made under an agreement.

Jain and Polaris senior vice-president Rajiv Malhotra were detained in Jakarta on charges of deception and fraud in an agreement with the bank.

From Chennai, the Polaris headquarters, its vice-president Raghuraman Balakrishnan was quoted by PTI as saying: “We are hopeful of some positive development at the earliest.”

Yesterday, Indian charge d’affaires in Jakarta Amar Sinha told the Indonesian leadership that as Polaris was willing to refund $660,000 to the bank, besides paying damages, there was no need to detain the executives.

Amar Sinha also made it clear to them that the company would cooperate with Indonesian authorities and an essentially commercial dispute should not be treated like a criminal case.

Sources said that the harassment being meted out to the Polaris executives may be part of an “extortion racket” that some “well connected” people in Indonesia were trying to run.

Earlier, a Canadian businessman was treated in a similar manner in a commercial dispute. The issue was resolved amicably only on the intervention of Canada’s political leadership.

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