Pakistan High Commissioner to visit Kolkata

“Abdul Basit will participate in a conference on Indo-Pak. trade.” -FIle Photo:Rajeev Bhatt  

The Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit will be visiting Kolkata between March 17 and 19 to attend a series of conferences and meetings, including a one-on-one with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, hosted by a city-based institute of regional studies and a chamber of business and industry. This will be the second visit of a Pakistan High Commissioner to Kolkata in recent years.

While both the High Commissioner’s office and the State Government have not given details of the visit, the city-based General Merchants’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), has confirmed that Mr. Basit will be in the city on March 18. “The High Commissioner will be in the city to participate in a conference on India-Pakistan trade,” said Subhasis Roy, Assistant Director, of the chamber.

MCCI will be hosting the High Commissioner’s interaction with the industry captains, while a preeminent institute of regional studies, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of South Asian Studies (MAKAISAS) will be hosting an evening session with policy think-tanks of eastern India.The High Commissioner has several other engagements in the city during his three-day stay. Besides meeting the Chief Minister, industry captains and policy framers, Mr. Basit is expected to meet the city’s journalists at “an informal session”, official sources confirmed to The Hindu .Pakistan’s former High Commissioner to India, Salman Bashir visited Kolkata in 2013 and handed over an invite to the Chief Minister. Ms. Banerjee later confirmed in the social media that she was invited by the Prime Minister of Pakistan “to visit the country at a convenient time.” Soon after, a delegation of journalists from Kolkata visited Pakistan.

The successive events sparked a minor debate in the country’s security establishment. Many of the officials were apprehensive of the outcome of Mr. Bashir’s December 2013 visit.

However, MAKAISAS refuses to accept that Mr. Basit’s visit to the ‘City of Joy’ may spark fresh debate.

“While I understand that the [MAKAISAS] interactions are taking place after his [High Commissioner’s] meeting with a key Hurriyat leader, the fact is Mr. Basit is attending an open session,” says the Chairman of MAKAISAS. “In an open session, both the think tanks and the media can ask questions, while the High Commissioner can clarify his position on several issues, without brushing anything under the carpet… such brainstorming can generate new ideas, may produce out-of-box solutions to many problems between the two countries,” he said.