The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Boucher envoy for Buddha business

Calcutta, Aug. 4: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has made an ambassador for Bengal out of Richard A. Boucher.

The chief minister’s dislike of the Indo-US strategic partnership — his opposition to the nuclear deal is no secret — did not come in the way of the Bhattacharjee-Boucher bonhomie.

“I’m very glad to be in Bengal, where the chief minister is doing so much. Here’s someone in the system who’s trying so hard to improve the situation. The meeting was a chance to look at the progress being made here,” the US assistant secretary of state said after his hour-long meeting with Bhattacharjee.

On a one-day visit, Boucher formally opened the office of the US Commercial Service — a wing of the US department of commerce — to facilitate trade. He met representatives of the Indian Chamber of Commerce besides slipping into St Xavier’s College for a session with the students.

Although Boucher discussed a range of contentious issues — the nuclear deal, Israel’s attack on Lebanon, Pakistan’s alleged role in militancy and the “mole” row — his focus was on business.

“I have no problems working with the chief minister… He is interested in opening opportunities for his people and so are we. We think we can play a role here,” said Boucher, who talked about Deng Xiaoping, probably aware of Bhattacharjee’s admiration for the Chinese leader.

He invited the chief minister to visit the US to woo investors. “A lot of preparation is required before I go there. When I am sufficiently prepared, I shall go,” Bhattacharjee is said to have responded.

He rolled out his wish list — more educational exchange and collaboration in manufacturing and small and medium enterprises.

Boucher promised to send a large business delegation later this year. “I’m talking to US companies about the scenario in Bengal,” he said, reportedly suggesting an increase in investment in food-processing.

This could be seen as a sales pitch for Wal-Mart. Boucher said retail chain was a “controversial” issue even in the US, but added: “In the long-term, the effects are positive.”

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