West Bengal keen on showcasing it as an attractive investment destination
The significance of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's scheduled meeting West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at Writers' Buildings — the State Secretariat — on Monday morning cannot be overstated.
While it is being viewed as a sign of recognition by the U.S. government of the growing importance of regional players like Ms. Banerjee in the national political scenario, the West Bengal government is working towards seizing this opportunity to showcase the State as an attractive destination for U.S. entrepreneurs keen to invest in the region.
It is only obvious that the U.S. administration is closely watching the developments in West Bengal that barely a year ago witnessed a major political transformation with Ms. Banerjee assuming power after 34 years of Left Front rule.
Time magazine nominating her in its 2012 list of the 100 most influential people in the world could just be an indication of heightening American interest in Ms. Banerjee.
U.S. Ambassador Nancy Powell's remark here ahead of Ms Clinton's visit to the city that it is “exciting to sense the new energy in the State” and her being “amazed by all the transformation that has taken place” is symptomatic of U.S. interest in the goings-on in the State.
As Ms. Powell had put it, Ms. Clinton's visit would be an opportunity for her to see first-hand “how much this city and eastern India have transformed and what a bright future lies ahead.”
There are also certain contentious issues Ms. Clinton could be looking forward to get a better understanding about. This could include Ms. Banerjee's opposition to foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail trade — that has put on back-foot the UPA government of which her party is a part of, not to speak of its impact on prospects of American corporations like Walmart.
On her part, Ms. Banerjee would like to remove prospective investors' misgivings about her government's land policy of not acquiring plots for industry.
Though there has been no official word on the matter, there is considerable speculation that the issue of sharing of Teesta waters between India and Bangladesh could crop up in Monday's meeting, particularly in view of the fact that Ms. Clinton also visited Bangladesh.
Ms. Banerjee's reservations on the quantum of water for release are well known. Left leaders here have, however questioned the propriety of discussions involving a U.S. official on an issue concerning just two countries.