PM Modi in Brussels: Trade, terrorism and investment on the cards at India-EU summit

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Brussels on Wednesday, just days after the devastating terrorist attacks in the city, to take part in the 13th Indian-European Union summit.

The visit is focused on counter-terrorism and, in the aftermath of the bombings in the Belgian capital, is being seen as a positive step to strengthen the EU-India relationship.

The PM was greeted with a red carpet welcome and a guard of honour at the Brussels airport. The visit comes just days after the twin airport and metro bombings in the city in which at least 32 people were killed, including an Indian — Raghavendran Ganesha, an Infosys employee from Bengaluru.

The PM also laid a wreath at the Maelbeek Metro Station to pay homage to the 20 victims killed during an attack on a train last Tuesday.

The aim of the summit is to yield a specific road map for EU-Indian cooperation that would lay down an action plan till 2020. Apart from the EU summit, where Modi signed several agreements with member nations, bilateral talks were also held with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel to further trade relations and develop counter-terrorism strategies. PM Modi also included meetings with Europe's top Indian businessman, and attended a jamboree to address the Indian Diaspora late on Wednesday. The previous EU-India summit, held in New Delhi in 2012, had remained deadlocked on various key issues and a breakthrough in negotiations for a free trade agreement, although unlikely, will be the major focus of the summit.

PM Modi in Brussels: Trade, terrorism and investment on the cards at India-EU summit

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel. AFP

Diplomats on both sides will meet to hash out a common policy to tackle issues like migration, terrorism, data security, reduction of trade duties, development of research avenues etc., and are expected to adopt declarations on water partnership, and energy and climate partnership.

The discussions in the closed door meeting will focus on latest developments in the EU's and India's respective neighbourhoods. This included the situations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea, Nepal, Syria and Ukraine.

Projecting a positive yet cautious stand before the summit, the EU had said in a statement that, "the summit in Brussels will be an opportunity to re-launch relations and make concrete progress on areas of mutual interest, including trade and investment, energy, climate, water and migration."

Bilateral Trade

The meeting with Belgian PM aimed to expand trade, investment and high technology partnership between the two countries. Within the EU, Belgium is India's second largest trade partner and in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Brussels, counter-terrorism was a major talking point of the meeting.

PM Modi issued a statement following the Brussel attacks last week, saying that ,"No words are enough to salute the resilience and spirit of the people of Belgium. We stand shoulder to shoulder with them in the wake of the horrific attacks in Brussels and share the grief of those who lost their loved ones."

Apart from the meeting, the two also remotely activated the India-Belgium ARIES (Aryabhatta Research Institute for Observational Sciences) Telescope.

Engaging the Diaspora

In Brussels, the PM also met with the Members of European Parliament (MEPs), Indologists, Belgian CEOs as well as a wide cross section of the Indian Diaspora in Belgium. He also interacted with the Board Members of the Association of Diamond Traders in Belgium.

Modi also met with Europe's top Indian businessmen, including a delegation of diamond traders from Antwerp, where India’s Patel community dominates the diamond trading hub – the largest in the world, with about 84% of the world’s rough diamonds. Later in the day, Modi also met with a jamboree to address the Indian Diaspora, in the style of other similar gatherings for Indians in the UK, Germany and the US. From Brussels, Modi will leave for Washington to attend the Nuclear Security Summit on 31 March and 1 April and from there, he will travel to Saudi Arabia on a two-day visit with a focus on boosting energy and security cooperation.

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Updated Date: Mar 30, 2016 18:32:06 IST

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