Counter-terrorism cooperation in the wake of the March 22 terror attacks in Brussels will be the starting point of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s engagements abroad as he departs on Tuesday night to visit Belgium, the US and Saudi Arabia.
“No words are enough to salute the resilience and spirit of the people of Belgium,” Modi said in a pre-departure statement.
“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.”
At least 35 people, including an Indian national, were killed in twin explosions at Zaventem airport and one at a metro station in the Belgian capital on March 22.
During his stay in Brussels on Wednesday, Modi will attend a bilateral summit with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and also the 13th India-European Union (EU) Summit.
At a pre-departure media briefing, Nandini Singla, joint secretary (Europe West) in the external affairs ministry, said that the issue of terrorism will be the starting point of the India-Belgium bilateral summit.
“The recent attacks in Brussels will of course be a very important part of the discussions. They will be the starting point of the engagement,” she said.
In his statement, Modi said that within the EU, Belgium was India’s second largest trading partner.
“My meeting with the prime minister aims to expand trade, investment and high technology partnership with this important EU member.”
Modi and Michel will also remote activate the India-Belgium ARIES (Aryabhatta Research Institute for Observational Sciences) telescope at Devasthal near Nainital.
Singla said that during the bilateral summit meeting, India and Belgium would discuss cooperation in renewable energy, biotechnology, shipping, and information and communication technology (ICT) and taxation.
Belgium is India’s second largest trading partner in the European Union (EU).
Modi would also interact with members of the Indian community in Belgium.
There are around 20,000 Indians in Belgium and many of them are engaged in diamond trading in Antwerp.
On Wednesday evening, Modi will attend the 13th India-EU Summit.
Modi, in his statement, said the EU was a vital trading partner and the biggest export destination for India.
“This summit will advance our multifaceted engagement across a whole range of domains,” he said.
While in Brussels, Modi would also meet members of the European Parliament (MEPs), Indologists, Belgian CEOs as well as a cross section of the Indian diaspora in Belgium.
“I would also interact with the Board Members of the Association of Diamond Traders in Belgium,” he said.
There are a large number of Indians in Belgium’s diamond trading hub of Antwerp.
After Belgium, Modi will be in Washington DC on March 31 to participate in the two-day Fourth Nuclear Security Summit, being hosted by US President Barack Obama.
“The summit would deliberate on the crucial issue of threat to nuclear security caused by nuclear terrorism. Leaders would discuss ways and measure through which to strengthen the global nuclear security architecture, especially to ensure that non-state actors do not get access to nuclear material,” the prime minister stated.
On his way back, Modi will visit Saudi Arabia on April 2 and 3 at the invitation of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
This will be the first prime ministerial visit from India to the Gulf kingdom after then prime minister Manmohan Singh’s visit in 2010.
“India’s ties with Saudi Arabia are special,” Modi said.
Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth largest trading partner, and is also India’s largest crude oil supplier accounting for one-fifth of its crude oil imports.