Buddha, Paulson discuss N-deal, investment opportunities

Written by Sumit Moitra | Amtala, Oct 28 | Updated: Oct 29 2007, 07:50am hrs
US treasury secretary Henry M Paulson Jr landed on Saturday in Kolkata, the first leg of his visit to the country. On Sunday, he met Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and checked out an NGO run by a prominent Left leader: signs that the US is trying to cajole the communists to agree to the nuke deal.

Paulson, when asked whether his decision to begin his trip from Kolkata was a move to soften the Left's stand on the nuclear deal, said: "I will talk about the issue with the chief minister."

However, neither Paulson nor Bhattacharjee disclosed the contents of their discussion held at the state secretariat, partly owing to the media melee that followed when the treasury secretary emerged from the meeting.

"It is a very important dealI would encourage moving forward as quickly as possible," Paulson said after handing out smart cards to farmers of Amtala. "It is up to India. You have to work your way through."

Interestingly, NGO Grameen Sanchar Society, whose work Paulson chose to witness, is run by CPI-M central committee member Nilotpal Basu.

Basu is the chairman of the NGO, which is considered to be a pioneer in providing rural mobile telephony in partnership with BSNL. The NGO has now tied up with ICICI Bank and Financial Information Network & Operations Ltd for their smart cards and mobile banking services in un-banked areas.

After Kolkata, Paulson will fly to Mumbai to attend an infrastructure conference and then to New Delhi to meet government officials. He will return to Washington on Tuesday. Paulson attended a dinner hosted by ABP Group head Aveek Sarkar.