| Abe in Calcutta. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
Calcutta, Aug 23: Bengal served up its wish list to Shinzo Abe today, sweetened with rossogolla and mishti doi.
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who hosted a lunch for the visiting Prime Minister, sought Japanese assistance for hydel power, IT hardware, farm and fresh fish culture technology and solid waste management.
Between bites, Abe listened silently and nodded occasionally as the chief minister and the finance minister rolled out the requests.
“It is a developed city…a developed city,” Abe said when Asim Dasgupta asked what he thought of Calcutta.
A sumptuous Bengali spread was laid out — chholar dal, chhanar dalna, galda chingri, shorshe bhetki and rice. But this was for the hosts and for the few in the Japanese team willing to brave the spices. An Italian menu thought more agreeable to the visitors’ palate was served to Abe.
As they tucked into their separate meals, Dasgupta showcased the state’s growing presence in IT and asked for help to get Japanese hardware manufacturers to Bengal.
“We would like to explore more options in non-conventional energy. So far, we haven’t been able to harness our mountain rivers for hydel power. We would welcome your country’s help,” he added.
It is not known if nuclear power was discussed.
Japan has substantial interests in infrastructure and power in the state. Mitsubishi’s investment in Haldia is the largest FDI in the state. Officials from the company were also at the lunch where Tagore was discussed alongside trade.
Abe thanked Bhattacharjee for making possible a visit to “the great poet’s home” at Jorasanko and said he felt strongly about Calcutta, since his grandfather had also visited the city.
“Have you ever experienced an earthquake'” Abe asked Bhattacharjee.
“No, I haven’t… and I don’t want to either,” was the reply.
But he persuaded Abe to experience sweet Bengal — the Italian lunch was topped off with rossogolla, hot gulab jamun and mishti doi.
In true Bengali tradition, no goodbyes were said. Instead, Bhattacharjee promised to take Abe to Santiniketan on his next visit.