Kolkata: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Kolkata on Sunday, on a two-day visit during which she hold talks with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and interact with a cross-section of people. She will then fly into Delhi for talks with senior government officials.
Clinton, flew into Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport on a special flight from Dhaka at 12.55 p.m., running 15 minutes behind schedule, and was received by two bureaucrats of the state government. She waved to the waiting camerapersons at the airport and posed for photos before boarding a limousine which headed for her hotel in South Kolkata amid tight security.
The high point of Clinton’s visit, her second to the city and first after becoming the US Secretary of state, will be her meeting with Banerjee at the state secretariat, at Writers’ Building, on Monday morning. Discussions on foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail and India-Bangladesh ties are expected to be high on the agenda. Clinton is expected to ask Banerjee to support FDI in retail, which was stalled due to massive opposition when the government brought it up during the winter session of Parliament.
Speculation is rife that Clinton – who is to meet Banerjee just a day after her meeting with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina – will raise the issue of the Teesta Water Treaty between India and Bangladesh, which was sent into cold storage due to Banerjee’s opposition last year.
Meanwhile in Delhi, Clinton is expected to discuss civil nuclear cooperation, regional security and Iran, with External Affairs Minister SM Krishna during their meeting on Tuesday.
During her stay in the national capital, she is also expected to call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, during which they will also review progress made in their countries’ strategic partnership ahead of the India-US strategic dialogue to be held in Washington on 13 June.
The meeting between Clinton and Indian leaders gains significance as it comes immediately after her high-level talks in China and ahead of the crucial NATO summit in Chicago, where some important decisions are expected to be made on Afghanistan.
“The entire gamut of bilateral relationship apart from all those issues which impinge on the Indo-US partnership will be discussed,” an official source said.
Both sides will discuss civil nuclear cooperation and regional security situation with New Delhi expected to brief the US Secretary on its proposed regional investors’ meet to discuss economic development of Afghanistan, sources said.
Though admitting that the US and India were not on the same page on Iran, they said both sides are expected to discuss the issue and put forth each other’s positions.
The US, which has imposed sanctions against Tehran, has been asking India to restrict its import of crude oil from Iran but New Delhi has been maintaining that it only accepts sanctions which are made by the United Nations and not unilateral sanctions.