West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee cancels China trip at the last minute

File photo of West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee (Photo: PTI)
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday called off her trip to China, hours before her scheduled departure, after failing to receive confirmation of meetings from the Chinese side.

The development comes less than two months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on Chinese President Xi Jinping for what was seen as a “heart-to-heart” summit.

 
In March this year, on the suggestion of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Banerjee had agreed to lead a delegation to China under the Exchange Programme of Government of India with the International Department of the Communist Party of China. 

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“Till yesterday (Thursday), everything was going well, but unfortunately, the Chinese side could not confirm the political meetings at appropriate level as informed by our Ambassador in China … It has now been intimated by our Ambassador in China that the political meetings at the appropriate level under the Exchange Programme could not be confirmed. Therefore, the purpose of my visit with a delegation to China under the Exchange Programme is of no use,” Banerjee tweeted on Friday. 

West Bengal has shown a deep interest in Chinese investments even at a time when the Indian government raised objections to China’s ambitious infrastructure project — One Belt One Road project.  

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In January this year, close to 30 Chinese companies participated at the West Bengal government’s flagship Global Investment Summit in Kolkata.

While the Ministry of External Affairs remained silent on the issue, West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra said, “We were supposed to leave tonight, and since still there is no confirmation, we cannot wait for an indefinite period. If the political meeting with the appropriate level is not yet confirmed, then this visit to China under exchange programme is of no use. At the last moment, we are unfortunately compelled to cancel the visit.”’  

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Later in the evening, the Chinese Consulate in Kolkata released a statement, saying, the Chinese side attaches great importance to its relationship with India and to the exchanges between the Chinese provinces and the Indian states. It was working hard to prepare for the CM’s trip to China.  

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“At the time the announcement was made, the Chinese side still working on the arrangements and remained in contact with the Indian Embassy in China. The Chinese Consulate General in Kolkata has all along been committed to promoting ties between the Chinese provinces and West Bengal,”the statement read. And will continue its efforts in enhancing friendly exchanges and cooperation between the provinces and this state in economic, trade, cultural, educational and other fields." 

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The political exchange programme was supposed to be dovetailed with a business mission to get investment for West Bengal. Business meets were scheduled with chief executive officers of Chinese companies in Beijing and Shanghai. Banerjee was scheduled to return to Kolkata June 30.

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