Chief minister Mamata Banerjee invited British Prime Minister David Cameron to revisit Kolkata soon, describing the city as “a true getaway to the east”.
“My message for the British PM is that he must visit Kolkata again soon and see that it is truly the gateway to the east,” she said in response to a letter from Cameron apologising for not being able to meet her in London due to his tour of South East Asia.
“I am sorry that my travel plans mean I will not be in London to see you in London... I fondly recall our meeting in Kolkata in November 2013, when we discussed the positive UK-West Bengal bilateral cooperation that exists, and the wealth of trade and investment opportunities this offers,” Cameron had written in his letter dated July 24.
Mamata highlighted that it was a matter of “destiny” that Britain turns to Kolkata and West Bengal, which she described as a “gateway to Asia”.
“Britain started with Kolkata as its business capital (during the Raj) so that is the destination. History repeats itself and it is destiny that British business should expand to Kolkata,” she said.
Asked how the Bengal capital compares to London, the Trinamool leader said both cities have their own identity but there are a number of similarities.
“As I have been walking around I see a lot of similarities in architecture and road names. They have Queen Victoria’s statue, we have Victoria Memorial. London is an expensive city but Kolkata is not. It is a soft, soothing, cheap city. London is pollution-free and we are fast moving towards a cleaner, greener city,” she said.
Walking has been central theme of the Chief Minister’s visit to the UK, as she prefers to explore London mostly by foot in her trademark white sari and flip-flops.
Asked if she would revisit the British capital, she said, “I will definitely come back. This has been a very fruitful business meet. The perception of Bengal has changed today. It is set to become the industrial hub of India. The size of investments will become clear over time but 21 MoUs have been signed, which is a very positive sign.”
“Today the world is a united family and we must walk together,” she said.
The agenda for Mamata’s five-day visit to the UK was affected as a result of the seven-day state mourning declared in memory of former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam, who passed away on Monday.
Following floral tributes to Rabindranath Tagore at Gordon Square and Mahatma Gandhi at Parliament Square, she also paid floral tributes to Kalam at a small ceremony organised in Taj St James Court Hotel in London on Tuesday.
A gala Bengal-themed cultural event at the Natural History Museum, which was to include performances by singer Usha Uthup, and Ustad Rashid Khan, was cancelled. The only official event now planned before she flies back to Kolkata is a corporate briefing at Asia House.
CM thanks industrialists
With Bengal signing 22 initial agreements with Britain in various areas of cooperation, Mamata on Wednesday expressed satisfaction with her visit.
“We had very successful meetings over the last two and a half days,” her party Trinamool Congress’ official Twitter handle quoted Mamata as saying.
On Wednesday, Mamata took part in a meeting with industrialists at Asia House followed by a meeting with NRI industrialist and politician Lord Swraj Paul.
“CM Mamata Banerjee - delightful, modest, erudite and wholehearted in her mission to advance West Bengal,” Paul tweeted after the meeting.
In course of her visit, Mamata not only highlighted the opportunities and potential of foreign investment in her home state but also elaborated on the ease of doing business in the state.
ITC Ltd chairman YC Deveswar, who was part of her business delegation, was quoted as saying on Trinamool’s website that, “I think there are very less markets in India such as West Bengal. Consumption level is increasing by 3% per annum here.”
Sanjiv Goenka, chairman of RP-Sanjiv Goenka group, said, “Though we are happy with our investments in UK, we are happier with our investments in Bengal.”