The US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, told a town hall meeting in Kolkata on Monday that she planned to discuss opening India's retail sector to foreign investment with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and that India should do even more to reduce its dependence on Iranian oil.
Ms Clinton also said she was a fan of the Bengali poet and composer Rabindranath Tagore, and joked that she and her husband are argumentative, much like Bengalis.
The secretary of state is on a two-day trip to India and is scheduled to meet later Monday with Ms Banerjee, who has been one of the chief opponents of a proposal to allow multi-brand retailers like Walmart to enter India. "There is an enormous amount of experience that can be brought to India on supply-chain management, on developing relationships with small producers," Ms Clinton said Monday morning.
She spoke at a meeting at La Martiniere School for Girls, a private school established in 1836, in a session moderated by NDTV journalist Barkha Dutt. "I know how difficult it is for women to be elected anywhere," Ms Clinton told the crowd of hundreds of students and others meant to represent a cross-section of Kolkata. "When I meet a woman who has broken through those barriers, we share a common bond of having gone through the fire of electoral politics."
The primary purchasers of Iranian oil - India, China, Japan and the European countries - "are being asked to lower their supply to keep pressure on Iran," she said, while Saudi Arabia, Iraq and other suppliers are putting more oil into the market. There is an international consensus that these sanctions are working, she said.
"India understands the importance of trying to use diplomacy to resolve these difficult threats and is certainly working toward lowering their purchases of Iranian oil," she said. "We hope they will do even more."
The Secretary of State's visit coincides with a visit from Iranian businessmen to New Delhi and Mumbai. She flies to New Delhi Monday night, where she will meet with officials ahead of the "US - India Strategic Dialogue" in Washington, DC June 13. On Tuesday, Iranian businessmen and Indian trade groups will have a press conference in New Delhi.
© 2012, The New York Times News Service