|(From top) Paulson, Parsons and Kissinger
Calcutta, Oct. 24: Bengal is finally catching the eye of the A-list of America, but not because of Prakash Karat’s nuclear explosions.
US treasury secretary Henry M. Paulson will kick off the Bengal parade by landing in Calcutta on Sunday to talk business with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
As the American counterpart of India’s finance minister, Paulson will be the highest-ranking serving US government official to visit Calcutta in recent memory. Team Paulson will include ambassador David Mulford and Time Warner chairman and CEO Dick Parsons.
In Paulson’s footsteps will follow another — and better-known — Henry.
Henry Kissinger, the erstwhile US secretary of state communists loved to hate during the Vietnam war era and later grew to admire privately for his role in ushering China into the international mainstream, is scheduled to be in Calcutta in the first week of November as part of a separate delegation.
Paulson, leading a high-level business delegation, is scheduled to meet Bhattacharjee around Sunday noon.
“He will meet the chief minister… But there is no fixed agenda on the cards. Lets see how it goes,” chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb said.
Whichever way it goes, the touchdown itself will be a departure because Calcutta had hardly figured on the radar of power tourists who usually stick to the beaten tracks of Hyderabad and Bangalore.
The chief minister’s investor-friendly image must have helped. Ronen Sen, the Indian ambassador to the US, is also believed to have played an important role in getting Calcutta included on Paulson’s itinerary.
The Indo-American Chamber of Commerce – a forum for corporations doing business in India and the US – will organise a meeting of Paulson’s delegation with a select group of industry representatives in Calcutta.
“We are seeing an unprecedented rise in interest in Bengal from our members in the US,” said S.K. Jain, the regional president of the industry association.
“The interest is not just in eastern India.… There is a specific focus on Bengal and it is a welcome trend,” said Harsh Jha, the president of the Indian Chamber of Commerce.
The schedule of Kissinger, who will be accompanied by former US ambassador Frank Wisner, has yet to be finalised.
However, “the team led by Kissinger will hold an interactive session with our members on November 3”, said Sunil Mishra, the regional director of CII, eastern region.
The former US secretary of state now heads Kissinger Associates Inc, which assists clients in identifying strategic partners as well as investment opportunities and advises them on government relations throughout the world.
Wisner, the US ambassador to India from July 1994 to 1997, is now the vice-chairman, external affairs, of insurance firm AIG.
Paulson and the members of his delegation, some of whom will reach by private planes, will spend a busy day in the city. The treasury secretary is scheduled to visit a village to study rural credit instruments and micro finance.
After Calcutta, Paulson will got to Mumbai and Delhi to take part in the US-India CEO Forum and the Fortune Global Forum. He will also meet finance minister P. Chidambaram, RBI governor Y.V. Reddy and Sebi chairman M. Damodaran.