Calcutta, Jan. 10: These days, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee hardly misses the opportunity to talk about the state’s potential as an investment destination and today, when the Bengal chief minister met members of the India–UK round table, he was quick to hardsell Bengal.
“The presentation was very impressive and we requested for hardcopies of it. It’s true that West Bengal has a lot to offer and it is the most unsung state,” said Lord Swraj Paul, co-chairman of the round table for the UK team.
Planning Commission deputy chairman K.C. Pant is heading the 16-member Indian side at the round table, a forum for “high-level civil society dialogue” between India and the UK.
From combating terrorism to extending the scope of intellectual exchanges and removing the roadblocks to a smooth transition to multilateral trading system to assessing the impact of business process outsourcing, the members are discussing an entire gamut of bilateral issues during the January 9-11 meet. The India–UK initiative was launched in April 2000.
“The interest in West Bengal is growing,” Paul said while speaking on the perception about the state.
The Planning Commission deputy chairman also had a few good words for Bhattacharjee.
“With the state looking to attract more investment from the UK, the chief minister put forward West Bengal’s case and the members liked his candid presentation,” he said, while addressing the media on the second day of the seventh India–UK round table.
He, however, added: “The debt situation is really bad in West Bengal and we are saying this for some time. The state government must do something to get rid of the high cost debt to get out of the situation.”
After the word of caution for the Bengal government, came the good news for India Inc.
“Some of the British members expressed concerns over the impact of BPO on employment in UK, but broadly it was felt that outsourcing was good for both the countries,” said Pant.
Echoing his views, Paul pointed out how more and more companies — 465 in the past three years — are setting up operations in the UK and creating jobs for British citizens.
But the fight against terrorism remained the focus of discussion and the round-table members agreed on the need for a broad-based approach.
“There was unanimity that there could not be any equivalence between terrorism and counter-terrorism measures undertaken by democratic states,” Paul said in a joint statement.
There was unanimity on the economic issues too, with the members from both the sides widely agreeing that “progress need to be made on the issue of agricultural subsidies in the developed world to ensure the speedy conclusion of the Doha round”.