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Rashtrapati Bhavan : 05.10.2013

I have just concluded a very satisfying visit to the Kingdom of Belgium.

The warmth of the reception and the meticulous attention given by the Government of Belgium to every aspect of my programme reflected the strength of our bilateral relationship with Belgium. As a rare gesture, the King received me at the airport which is an expression of his special interest in India developed over years through his numerous visits to India. His exceptional affinity and deep knowledge about India and our culture were reflected in his address at the lunch hosted by him in my honour.

In my meetings with His Majesty King Philippe and the Prime Minister H.E. Mr. Elio Di Rupo, we recognized the depth of our bilateral political and economic relations. Both leaders emphasized the importance that Belgium attaches to its relations with India. They reiterated their support for reform of the UN institutions and for India’s permanent membership of the UN Security Council. Belgium has also supported our efforts for developing civil nuclear cooperation.

Our economic partnership with Belgium is of particular importance as it has emerged as India’s second largest trading partner within EU. We discussed a number of important areas of economic cooperation including some in the pipeline. We noted our important joint efforts in development and modernization of India’s railway sector, cooperation in nuclear waste management and in science and technology. We identified possibilities of extending the existing cooperation between port authorities of our countries to more advanced areas of port management. In this aspect we noted the commonalities between the riverine ports of Antwerp and Kolkata which could be exploited through bilateral cooperation. Belgium has expertise in some niche areas which are priority sectors for India. I urged the Belgium leaders to encourage enhanced investment in India particularly in sectors such as port, roads, railways, green technology, aerospace and pharmaceuticals.

I have always placed emphasis on improving the quality of higher education in our country, promoting collaborations to strengthen research infrastructure in India and to encourage innovation in our academic institutions. Belgium has world renowned academic infrastructure in higher education especially innovation. In the view of the benefits to India from enhanced academic cooperation, a high level academic delegation of some of the top India Universities accompanied me during my visit. They included Prof. Ved Prakash, Chairman, UGC, Prof. Dinesh Singh, Vice Chancellor, Delhi University, Prof. S.K. Sopory, Vice Chancellor, JNU, Dr. R. Ramaswamy, Vice Chancellor, University of Hyderabad and Prof. Biswajit Das, Director, Center for Media and Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia. I am particularly satisfied with the conclusion of the five agreements between universities of India and Belgium and am confident that it will give an impetus to Research and Innovation in both the countries.

I am confident that our interactions during my visit would further enhance our bilateral engagements. Princess Astrid of Belgium will lead one of Belgium’s largest economic missions to India in November this year. We greatly look forward to the visit.

It was a great pleasure to inaugurate jointly with H.M. King Philippe, the Europalia.India festival, which is the largest Indian cultural festival outside India in recent years. By showcasing the myriad forms of our art and culture over the next four months, Europalia.India will enable the people of Europe glimpse into our past through our present. More importantly it will offer a window into our future. India, a relatively young nation of a billion plus people, confidently forging into future, is striving to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth. The potential benefit of cooperation between India and Europe is tremendous and I am confident that Europalia.India will unleash the necessary energy to exploit it.