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Mamata cancels trip to China at last minute

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KOLKATA: Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had to cancel her China trip hours before boarding the flight on Friday after getting no confirmation till noon of a proposed political dialogue with Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee members.

Banerjee, who was to leave for an eight-day trip as the head of a 40-member delegation, felt that there was no use going to China without a political dialogue with CPC members of a “certain level commensurate with her role in Indian politics”, Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra said.

Banerjee set her itinerary following a request from foreign minister Sushma Swaraj three months ago, urging her to lead a delegation to China under the Exchange Programme of the Indian government and the international department of CPC.

China had invited Banerjee to Beijing but the latter did not firm up her plans till the request came from Swaraj. Banerjee wrote on April 2 that she “appreciated” the recommendation and mentioned that she wis- hed to visit China in the last week of June. Bengal chief secretary Moloy De and India’s ambassador in China Gautam Bambawale chalked out a programme with the political dialogue as the pivot. A business summit in Sanghai was woven into the itinerary to promote trade and commerce between China and Bengal.

O fficials said Chinese authorities kept the Bengal government waiting till Thursday over the confirmation of the meetings. “Our ambassador in China informed us that the Chinese side could not confirm the political meetings at an appropriate level,” Banerjee said after the trip was cancelled. “Our ambassador requested us for time till 12 noon IST (2.30pm Beijing time) on Friday for a confirmation of the proposed political meetings,” she added .

The Bengal government was also in touch with foreign secretary Vijay Gokha- le, who tried to get in touch with his Chinese counterparts, officials said.

The programme facilitates excha- nges between CPC leaders and Indian chief ministers. Many CMs, like Chhattisgarh’s Raman Singh, have been to China under this programme.

Banerjee said called-off trip would not affect India-China relations.

“Our ambassador in China tried his best to make the programme a success but non-confirmation of political meetings at an appropriate level compelled us to cancel the visit. But I wish the friendship between the two countries continues for mutual benefit,” she said.The Chinese consulate in Kolkata said it had “taken note” of the cancelled trip.

“The Chinese side was working hard to prepare for the CM’s and was still working on the arrangements and remained in contact with the Indian embassy in China when the cancellation was announced,” it said.

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