Didi can­cels China visit over re­jec­tion of meet­ing re­quest

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - HTNATION - Su­tirtho Pa­tra­nobis and Su­manta Ray Chaud­huri Mamata Ban­er­jee

BEI­JING/KOLKATA: West Ben­gal chief min­is­ter Mamata Ban­er­jee on Fri­day can­celled a high-pro­file visit to China af­ter Bei­jing said no to her re­quest for a meet­ing with one of the top lead­ers of the Com­mu­nist Party of China (CPC).

Ban­er­jee was sched­uled to travel to Bei­jing and Shang­hai and at­tend sev­eral events, in­clud­ing an in­vestors’ meet in China’s fi­nan­cial cap­i­tal, dur­ing her eight-day trip.

China not agree­ing to Ban­er­jee’s re­quest and the can­cel­la­tion of her visit are be­ing seen as a “small set­back” to bi­lat­eral ties. She was to visit China un­der an ex­change pro­gramme be­tween In­dia and the CPC’S in­ter­na­tional depart­ment.

In a let­ter to the CPC, Ban­er­jee said the visit had been can­celled be­cause meet­ings at an “ap­pro­pri­ate level” could not be ar­ranged.

Ac­cord­ing to the orig­i­nal pro­gramme, Ban­er­jee was sched­uled to meet the min­is­ter of the CPC’S in­ter­na­tional depart­ment. But keep­ing in mind her stature in In­dian pol­i­tics, the In­dian side sought a meet­ing with some­one from the top Chi­nese lead­er­ship, of­fi­cials in Bei­jing said.

The In­dian side re­quested that a meet­ing be ar­ranged with some­one from the seven-mem­ber stand­ing com­mit­tee of the CPC, at the level of vice-pres­i­dent. In­dian of­fi­cials high­lighted Ban­er­jee’s po­si­tion in In­dian pol­i­tics but failed to con­vince the Chi­nese side.

A state­ment from the Chi­nese con­sulate in Kolkata said China at­taches “great im­por­tance” to its ties with In­dia and to ex­changes be­tween Chi­nese prov­inces and In­dian states. At the time of Ban­er­jee’s an­nounce­ment, the Chi­nese side was “still work­ing on the ar­range­ments”, it said.

Ban­er­jee’s let­ter, which was re­leased on Fri­day af­ter­noon, said: “Till yes­ter­day ev­ery­thing was go­ing on well but un­for­tu­nately the Chi­nese side could not con­firm the po­lit­i­cal meet­ings at ap­pro­pri­ate level as in­formed by our Am­bas­sador in China.”

She waited for confirmation of the meet­ing un­til noon, In­dian time, on Fri­day. “There­fore, the pur­pose of my visit with a del­e­ga­tion to China un­der the Ex­change Pro­gramme is of no use,” the let­ter said.

Ban­er­jee tweeted she had de­cided to visit China af­ter ex­ter­nal af­fairs min­is­ter Sushma Swaraj rec­om­mended in March that she should lead a del­e­ga­tion to China un­der the ex­change pro­gramme.

The fo­cus of her visit was to at­tract in­vest­ment to West Ben­gal and Ban­er­jee was sched­uled to meet po­ten­tial in­vestors at a busi­ness sem­i­nar in Shang­hai. State finance min­is­ter Amit Mi­tra was to sep­a­rately meet rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Chi­nese com­pa­nies in Bei­jing.

China’s con­sul gen­eral in Kolkata, Ma Zhanwu, ear­lier told the me­dia that au­thor­i­ties planned to or­gan­ise sev­eral meet­ings with po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, gov­ern­ment func­tionar­ies, busi­ness lead­ers and in­dus­try cham­bers. Ma had also said some “im­por­tant Mous” were to be signed dur­ing the visit.

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