The chief minister of the state of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, has invited British prime minister David Cameron to revisit Kolkata soon, describing the city “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.
Banerjee said 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 West Bengal capital compares to London, the Trinamool Congress 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.
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 (memoranda of understandings) 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 Banerjee’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 Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, who died 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.