West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday cancelled a high-profile visit to China after Beijing said no to her request for a meeting with one of the top leaders of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
Banerjee was scheduled to travel to Beijing and Shanghai and attend several events in the two cities, including an investors’ meeting in China’s financial capital, during her eight-day trip.
China not agreeing to Banerjee’s request and the cancellation of her visit are being seen as a “small setback” to bilateral ties. She was to visit China under an exchange programme between India and the CPC’s international department.
In a letter to the CPC, Banerjee said the visit had been cancelled because meetings at an “appropriate level” could not be arranged.
According to the original programme, Banerjee was scheduled to meet the minister of the CPC’s international department. But keeping in mind her stature in Indian politics, the Indian side had sought a meeting with someone from the top Chinese leadership, officials in Beijing said.
The Indian side requested that a meeting be arranged with someone from the seven-member standing committee of the CPC, at the level of vice-president. Indian officials in Beijing highlighted Banerjee’s position in Indian politics, but failed to convince the Chinese side.
“Till yesterday everything was going on well but unfortunately the Chinese side could not confirm the political meetings at appropriate level as informed by our Ambassador in China,” said Banerjee’s letter, which was released on Friday afternoon.
She waited for confirmation of the meeting until noon, Indian time, on Friday. “Therefore, the purpose of my visit with a delegation to China under the Exchange Programme is of no use,” the letter said.
The “non-confirmation of the political meetings” at the last moment had “unfortunately compelled us to cancel the visit”, Banerjee wrote.
Banerjee tweeted that she had decided to visit China after external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj recommended in March that she should lead a delegation to China under the exchange programme.
The focus of her visit was to attract investment to West Bengal and Banerjee was scheduled to meet potential investors at a business seminar in Shanghai. State finance minister Amit Mitra was to separately meet representatives of Chinese companies in Beijing.
China’s consul general in Kolkata, Ma Zhanwu, earlier told the media that authorities planned to organise several meetings with political leaders, government functionaries, business leaders and industry chambers. Ma had also said some “important MoUs,” or memorandums of understanding, were to be signed during the visit.