Narendra Modi attended the 2016 edition of India-EU Summit, held at Brussels, Belgium, which on 22 March was subjected to a series of gruesome bomb blasts from Islamic militants. The event was attended by the likes of Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of European Commission, and Donald Tusk, the European Council President. Before the event, there had been a fair degree of speculation as to whether the Prime Minister of India would be able to attend the event in the wake of the Brussels attacks. However, the Government of India had stated that the state head would not be absent at the prestigious event.
Support for Belgium in times of need
Modi, in his discussions with the Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, stated quite clearly that the people of Belgium had the complete support of India in this time of crisis. In that sense, it was extension of the government’s stance. In the press statement that he read out during the event the Prime Minister of India stated how people in India could relate to the sense of grief and sorrow that has now gripped the people of Belgium following the devastating blasts.
He also expressed his commitment towards strengthening ties with Belgium further. Traditionally, both the countries have enjoyed a strong history of friendship. It dates back to the First World War when Indian soldiers fought alongside Belgians. In fact, 2016 is the seventieth year of diplomatic relations between the two countries. In this vein of general joie-de-vivre, Modi also invited King Philippe of Belgium to India in 2017 and announced a series of cultural events to celebrate the friendship.
India and Belgium coming together
India is acknowledged by many as the rising economic superpower of the world and Belgium is one of the most economically-capable countries of the world. In his speech Modi said that if both countries came together it could be magical for the economy of both the countries. Following are a few areas where Modi felt that both countries could collaborate:
- Renewable energy
- Science and technology
- Space research
- Shipping and ports
- Internet and communications technology
In his speech Modi also talked about diamonds and how they had served to be a connecting factor between both the countries. He stated that diamonds generated a lot of employment in India and termed it as a promising area for cooperation between the two countries.
In the same way as Modi canvassed for better economic ties and overall cooperation between India and Belgium, he also called for a more advanced trade and investment agreement to be signed between India and EU as he felt that it would be mutually beneficial from an economic point of view.
ARIES (Aryabhatta Research Institute) telescope
This was a telescope built by both India and Belgium and seems to be pretty close to the PM’s heart. Here India provided the expertise and Belgium executed the same. He stated that apart from the collaboration between governments of both countries this was one project where the private sectors of both countries could come together and collaborate as well. In his typically-robust fashion the PM of India stated that this project could be a really big one. Both Michel and Modi remotely activated the said telescope during the event.
The big pitch
The Prime Minister of India ended his participation in an emphatic fashion by terming India as the quickest growing economy in the world and invited all in attendance to come and make the most of the opportunities that India had to offer. He said that India was not only one of the largest markets in the world but also a leader in terms of the talent it had to offer, a statement not to be trifled considering the success of Indian professionals in major enterprises of the world. In fact, Modi had a separate meeting at the Egmont Palace with the CEOs of some of the leading companies in Belgium before the summit began.
Focus on terrorism
As may be expected, the recent Brussels attacks cast a pall of gloom on this important event, and it featured in Modi’s speech as well. He said how terrorism had grown in stature of late and how India had been fighting it for the last four decades. He also paid tribute to the victims of the attack. Modi also stressed on how important it had become for countries to fight this evil. In fact, the situation is such that the Brussels Airport has not become fully operational and Modi’s flight landed at the Brussels Military Airport. The Belgian Army has also been pressed into action for Modi’s visit. The significant terror threat has also contributed to additional security for the interaction between Modi and members of Indian diaspora.
What does this mean for India?
This event has provided Narendra Modi the ideal opportunity to improve diplomatic ties with Belgium, something that he has capably done with his pledge of support for the terror-struck country. More importantly, however, the summit gave him the chance to try and get more investors for India, something that he has grabbed with both hands. In fact, Modi has always been something of a groundbreaker in this regard, canvassing for Gujarat when he was the Chief Minister as a global investment hub. He was also able to be successful in that regard. However, given the common complaints of bureaucratic red-tape and corruption overseas firms have found it hard to work over here. It remains to be seen if the story is any different with Belgian and European Union firms willing to buy into Modi’s vision and invest in India. The ARIES telescope is a fantastic achievement, though and speaks volumes of the work done by the Indian space research fraternity.