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Courtesy call with security in mind

Powell after meeting Mamata on Monday. Picture by Pradip Sanyal

Calcutta, Sept. 24: US ambassador Nancy Powell met Mamata Banerjee at Writers’ this afternoon.

Both sides said the visit was a “courtesy call” by the envoy. Customary speculation on FDI in retail greeted the visit but sources said the issue did not figure in the talks.

Asked about the meeting, Mamata said: “They (US ambassadors) meet the chief minister whenever they go to a state. It’s part of their routine.” “Why would a US ambassador discuss such policy decisions (FDI) with a chief minister? You should know that these things don’t happen,” she added.

Sources at the American Center said the meeting was a “courtesy call”.

“The ambassador meets the chief minister while on a consular visit. It’s part of the protocol. This courtesy call had been slated three weeks ago,” said Jeffrey Reneau, director of the Center.

A senior home department official said: “US diplomacy does not usually lack sophistication. It is highly unlikely that Powell was sent to discuss FDI in retail days after the pullout.”

He said the Indo-US relationship was “multi-dimensional” and there were “plenty” of other areas, such as security, on which talks could have been held”.

The US establishment is keen on stability in the Indo-Bangladesh region, for which the Teesta water-sharing agreement is crucial.

“The US wants stability and a drastic reduction of import of terror into our region through the Indo-Bangladesh border. The Teesta water-sharing agreement will pave the way for that, by ensuring better ties between the neighbours. That is one of the things they may have talked about,” the official said.