Mamata on UK visit, greets 'great nation' Britain

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today greeted the "great nation" of Britain as she landed here on a five-day visit seeking to woo foreign investment for her state.

"Just landed in London with business delegation from Bengal. Greetings to the people of this great nation," the Trinamool Congress leader tweeted.

Her visit starts with a briefing by the Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Ranjan Mathai, followed by a reception hosted by Prince Andrew, the UK's special representative for international trade and investment, at Buckingham Palace.

Banerjee will then head to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) for a bilateral meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron's Indian Diaspora Champion and UK employment minister, Priti Patel.

The two leaders will sign a series of MoUs between the UK government and West Bengal after their meeting. The subjects likely to be covered include industry, health, urban development and higher education. Raising the investment potential of West Bengal in the UK and facilitating collaborative efforts to set up business in both destinations, promotion of Bengali handicrafts and a series of private sector joint ventures are expected within the industry segment.

Academic exchange programmes between the University of Cambridge and Presidency University, Kolkata, in the field of Arts and Humanities and between London-based School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and Presidency for the study of Bangla language form the centrepiece of the education sector memorandums of understanding (MoUs).

In the health sector, the Institute of Health and Family Welfare, government of West Bengal, and the UK's Royal College of General Practitioners are also expected to strike a technical support deal for post-graduate diploma courses on family medicine in West Bengal and technical collaboration on making New Town, Kolkata, a smart city will dominate the urban development arena.

Banerjee is accompanied by a 62-member delegation, including business chiefs from the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) as well as state cabinet ministers and MPs.

While her team is keen to ensure the visit highlights West Bengal as an "ideal" destination for UK investment, the media management of the entire tour has been thrown in disarray. The UK media has been blocked from the MoU signing event while the media delegation travelling with the chief minister has been allowed access. Some of Banerjee's other key engagements include floral tributes at the new Mahatma Gandhi statue in Parliament Square and a cultural evening themed around West Bengal at the Natural History Museum in central London tomorrow.

On Wednesday, she is scheduled to address a closed-door meeting of business chiefs at Asia House before a reception hosted at the Indian high commissioner's residence.

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