US to invest in Bengal as 'partner state': Mamata

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Describing her meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as 'positive, constructive and creative', West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday said the former assured her of American investment in the state for its business and economic development, considering Bengal as a 'partner state'.

Banerjee, however, said issues like Teesta water sharing with Bangladesh and foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail were 'never raised' in the talks.

Addressing a press conference after a meeting with Clinton at the state secretariat, the chief minister said: "They (the US) will invest in West Bengal as a partner state. For a long time, there has not been any US investment in the state. After the change in political scenario, they said that the US would favour investment in Bengal."

Banerjee said Clinton has expressed the US' desire to invest in West Bengal as the state has witnessed a change in its 'political scenario' after decades. She said she also urged Clinton to consider American investments in the state's software, IT and manufacturing, health and education sectors.

Banerjee said state Chief Secretary Samar Ghosh and US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell would coordinate between themselves and jointly monitor the projects, which would be set up under public-private-partnership (PPP) mode.

"We have formed a small group. Ghosh and Powell will coordinate between themselves and monitor the implementation of the projects," she said.

Banerjee, the Trinamool Congress chief, stressed issues like Teesta water sharing dispute and FDI did not come up in the talks with Clinton as was speculated in the media.

"We only discussed developmental issues. Strategic issues we did not discuss. Teesta and FDI did not come up in the meeting. There issues were never raised," she stated.

There was speculations in the political circles that Teesta water sharing with Bangladesh and FDI in multi-brand retail would be discussed in the Clinton-Banerjee meet. The Trinamool is strictly opposing foreign investment in retail, while the chief minister had opted out of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Dhaka trip last year, leading to the agreement on water sharing being dropped.

After the meeting, the chief minister said she was 'very delighted' as the talks with Clinton had been "positive, constructive, creative and concrete".

Informing that the secretary of state appreciated her for implementation of different development programmes after coming to power in the state, the chief minister said she has assured her of US government's support in the business and economic development of the state, which was facing a severe debt crisis.

"She hailed us for coming to power in the state with huge support and changing the political scenario. She also appreciated our implementation of programmes in mission mode," Banerjee said.

Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, joining hands with the Congress, ousted the left Front, which had been in power for 34 years, last May.

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