Kolkata: Stating that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee “is very popular” there, Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit today invited her to visit neighbouring country and start a student exchange programme.
After meeting Banerjee at the state secretariat here, the envoy said he has invited her to visit Pakistan and hoped that she will visit them soon.
“Mamata ‘didi' is very popular and a household name in Pakistan and is respected as she is very down to earth and simple,” Basit said later on during a dinner reception at the Kolkata Press Club.
He said that he had a very good meeting with the chief minister where they also discussed the possibility of making Kolkata a twin city with one of the cities in Pakistan. Basit said he told the chief minister that they need to focus on youth and should try to have as many student exchanges as possible.
“She readily agreed to the idea. Now we will try to send students,” the envoy said, adding that “This is one way of overcoming stereotypes and we need to focus on our young people”.
Terming the meeting with Banerjee as a “dream come true”, he said, “I have submitted some proposals and we will now follow them through and hopefully relation with West Bengal will flourish in the months ahead”.
He also refused to comment on reports that Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) was training 60 young people in Muzaffarabad in the PoK.
Noting that both India and Pakistan were democratic where federating units (states) have an important role to play towards promoting bilateral relations at all levels and in all spheres, a statement from the Pakistan High Commission had earlier said the visit to Kolkata was aimed at exploring bilateral opportunities and enhancing mutual understanding.
Later on in a Facebook post, the chief minister said, “We had very fruitful discussion. He invited me to visit Pakistan”.