Calcutta, July 17: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today cast Bengal as a victim of the Centre's diplomatic failure, wading into a subject where the Narendra Modi government has been finding itself on a sticky wicket of late.
"Bengal is the worst sufferer because of this failure. It is sandwiched... the gateway to Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan. We want good relations with neighbours," Mamata said on the sidelines of the presidential election this afternoon.
"Nearly four hundred schools have mushroomed around the Pashupati Gate near Darjeeling where the Chinese language is taught. Who allowed that to happen?" she asked. Foreign policy is a central subject, and states usually steer clear of the topic. But Mamata said that Bengal, being a border state, is a stakeholder.
Her comments come at a time New Delhi is locked in a standoff with Beijing. The Bengal government has alleged cross-border meddling in the unrests both in Darjeeling and Basirhat.
"If Sikkim goes to China - and there is no difference between Sikkim and Darjeeling as they are adjacent.... The Siliguri corridor is the Chicken's Neck, which the Centre is weakening rather than strengthening.... Our relations with our neighbours - China, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh - have worsened because of the Centre's diplomatic failure," Mamata said.
The Siliguri Corridor, or Chicken's Neck, is a narrow stretch connecting the Northeast to the rest of India. As Bhutan lies on the northern side of the corridor, Chinese interest in the Himalayan country is often linked to Beijing's alleged plan of keeping the corridor within striking distance.
Mamata's remarks came shortly after her party gave a notice in the Rajya Sabha to suspend all other business tomorrow to discuss the India-China standoff.
Mamata has written to the Centre protesting the alleged burning of Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina's effigy in Beckbagan. "Why was it allowed? How is the VHP - I hate taking that organisation's name - giving arms training to children?"