Kolkata: In a sharp turn of events, which is likely to have a far reaching impact on an already shaky Indo-China relations, Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee cancelled her proposed week-long trip to China. The announcement came barely hours before Banerjee's flight to Beijing from Kolkata on Friday.
Banerjee was scheduled to lead a business and political delegation to China under the Exchange Programme of the Government of India with the International Department of the Communist Party of China.
The chief minister was invited by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj for the programme in March this year. Banerjee had confirmed her participation in April.
The word from Nabanna, the Bengal state secretariat, is that the last minute cancellation of the trip was prompted by the “inability of the Chinese side to confirm political meetings at an appropriate, level as informed by the Indian Ambassador in China”.
“Our Indian Ambassador in China requested time till 12 noon today IST, which is 2.30 pm China time, for a confirmation to the political meetings, as proposed by the Indian Ambassador to the Chinese Authority,” read a press statement from the chief minister’s office in Kolkata.
“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’s statement, released at around 3 pm IST, added.
“Although our Ambassador in China had tried his best to make the programme a success, non-confirmation of the political meetings… at the last moment has unfortunately compelled us to cancel the visit,” the statement concluded, with Banerjee wishing for “continuation of friendship” which should “strengthen further” in the days ahead in the interest of both countries.
Sources at Nabanna confirmed that Banerjee was unhappy with the way the Chinese establishment handled the proposed tour. “Neither the Chinese government nor the Communist Party of China were able to confirm any meeting with the Indian delegation. Repeated changes in programmes and schedule suddenly started popping up barely 48 hours before the team from Kolkata was scheduled to board the aircraft. The chief minister doesn’t think it’s prudent to visit China for leisure, which this was eventually turning out to be in the absence of the political meetings at the government and party levels,” explained a senior official at Nabanna.
Bengal finance minister, Amit Mitra, who was also supposed to be a part of the delegation said, “We too have our position and prestige. We can’t go just like that without ensuring that something fruitful for our country would result from this visit.”