The Left Front government led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in West Bengal got tributes from a very unlikely quarter -- the US-India Business Council, premier American advocacy organisation representing the largest US companies investing in India.
On the eve of USIBC's first four-City Executive Mission to India March 5 to March 9 that will include Kolkata, once again for the first time in 10 years, Ron Somers, president of USIBC, praised the West Bengal government for its progressive thinking.
"We are not concerned that there is a communist government in West Bengal for last three decades or so," Somers said in response to a question.
"All our companies have had long innings in India and they know very well that people like Jyoti Basu, and Buddadeb Bhattacharjee (West Bengal chief minister), are very progressive in their thinking and have opened up doors for investments in West Bengal," Somers told rediff.com in a brief interview on the eve of the visit.
USIBC will mount a four-City Executive Mission to India from March 5 to 9, commemorating the first anniversary of the US Presidential Mission to India, which took place on March 1.
The jumbo-sized 38-company USIBC Executive Mission will attend a US-India Economic Summit organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry in New Delhi on March 6 to take stock of the progress achieved in the US-India Strategic Partnership over the past year and to prepare a roadmap for the year ahead.
The USIBC Executive Mission, investing across all sectors of the Indian economy, will travel to Kolkata to meet the state government and leadership of the United Progressive Alliance Coalition on March 7.
The CII will organise a conference in Kolkata highlighting the 'View from the East: Opportunities and Promise'.
"Frankly speaking, US companies are hopeful that given this legacy, there will be collaborations established between public and private sector out of the eastern region of the country that are benefit to both our countries," Somers said.
"I think this is a real opportunity for US companies in West Bengal. If you are creating jobs and bringing technology transfers anywhere in India you are going to be treated well," Somers said.
"When we go to Delhi, sometimes we miss what is going on in other parts of India. We want to make a trip to West Bengal this time to understand what kind of investments are the state's priorities. We are looking at manufacturing, IT and refining and at petro-chemicals as well as at food processing in West Bengal," Somers said.
During the visit, nuclear power companies, high technology contractors and equipment suppliers will peal off from the USIBC Executive Mission and head to Mumbai to meet p;the Nuclear Power Corporation of India and the Indian private sector, including Tata and Reliance, to discuss collaborations and opportunities in India's nuclear power industry.
The USIBC Executive Mission will also travel to Chennai to meet with the government of Tamil Nadu and Captains of South Indian Industry to learn about opportunities in India's infrastructure and manufacturing sector.
The USIBC Executive Mission will be co-led by General Dan Christman and AMEX's Tom Schick.
The companies that will be represented on the USIBC Executive Mission include Best Buy, Parsons Brinkerhoff, The Wire Group, Amex, AIG, Cargill, Max New York Life, Dow Chemicals, Exceed International, Lighthouse Funds, Emergent Biosolutions, The Chatterjee Group, eFunds, General Electric, Westinghouse, Edlow Corporation, US Enrichment Corporation, Bechtel, Cognizant, ITT, PSEG, and 20 others.
In a statement, Somers said the USIBC is pleased to accompany America's finest companies to India, 'where we can demonstrate our desire to participate in the India growth story.'
To a question what the US companies are expecting from the visit, Somers said the mission looks at refining USIBC's roadmap for 2007.
"We are pushing US industry and the Indian industry on the thrust areas. I think more than ever the US Industry and Indian Industry are in line on all the issues," Somers said.
"This is a calibration exercise for us to mature and make sure that right emphasis is put on the right sector of the Indian economy to move this economy fast forward in the interest of companies in both our countries."