India-Belgium Bilateral Relations
Belgium was among the first European countries to establish diplomatic relations with independent India in September 1947. Our bilateral relations are warm and friendly based on shared commonalities as two mature democracies committed to the rule of law, federalism and pluralism.India is Belgium’s second largest export destination and fourth largest trade partner outside the EU with a significant contribution from the Indian diaspora. Belgium supports India’s permanent membership to the United Nations Security Council and has welcomed India’s aspirations to become a member of the four multilateral export control regimes.
Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi paid an Official visit to Belgium on March 30, 2016 on the invitation of Prime Minister of Belgium, Mr. Charles Michel. The visit was preceded by a deadly terrorist attack in Brussels. Both leaders condemning the attack underlined the need for all countries to effectively deal with terrorism emanating from their territory or territories under their control.Following the visit, a Memorandum of Understanding for bilateral cooperation in Biotechnology and a Letter of Intent on the existing MoU on Shipping Cooperation was signed.
Rashtrapatiji Shri Pranab Mukherjee paid a State visit to Belgium from 2-5 October, 2013 and jointly inaugurated the prestigious Europalia-India Cultural festival with the King of Belgians. During the visit five Memorandums of Understanding were signed between the Belgian and the Indian Universities.
Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh paid an official visit to Belgium from 9-11 December 2010. Vice President Shri M. Hamid Ansari visited Brussels from 3-5 October 2010 and led the Indian delegation tothe ASEM - 8 Summit.
There are regular high-level interactions between the two countries. Minister of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Shri Nitin Jairam Gadkari paid a visit to Belgium from 19-20 November 2014. Gen (Retd) V K Singh, MoS for External Affairs represented India at the World War I centenary commemoration events in October 2014. EAM Shri Salman Khurshid visited Belgium from 30-31 January 2013; Minister of State Smt. Preneet Kaur visited Belgium from 15-19 April 2012.
From Belgium, PM Mr. Guy Verhofstadt visited India from 2-7 November 2006. Belgian Foreign Minister Mr.Didier Reynders visited India in August 2012.Mr Pieter de Crem, Secretary of State for Foreign Trade of Belgium visited India from 13-18 January 2015 and later from 15-19 February, 2016.
The Belgian Royal family has traditionally led economic delegations to India. Princess Astride led an economic Mission comprising of 350 CEOs in November 2013.Crown Prince King Philippe(incumbent King) led an economic delegation of 350 business leaders to India from 20-27 March 2010. The then King of the Belgians, King Albert II and Queen Paola visited India from 3-12 November 2008.
India and Belgium formalized their Foreign Policy Consultations in March 2016. The biennialdialogue will be held at the level of Secretaries alternatively in India and Belgium.
Hon’ble Speaker of the Lok Sabha, H.E. Smt. Sumitra Mahajan led a 14 member parliamentary delegation, including 7 Members of Parliament, to the Belgian Parliament from June 23-26, 2015.
Economic &Commercial Relations:
India’s Joint Commission Meeting with theBelgium-Luxembourg Economic Union (India-BLEU JCM);established in 1997; is the main vehicle for discussing the economic and commercial issues. The biennial JCM is held alternatively in the three countries followed by a yearly mid-term review. The 14th JCM took place on 28September 2015 in New Delhi.
India is Belgium’s 2nd largest export destination and 4th largest trade partner outside the EU. Bilateral trade between India and Belgium during January-December 2015 stood at € 11.95 Billion. The major exports from India to Belgium in 2015 were in the sectors of gems &jewelry, textiles, chemicals and chemical products. The cumulative FDI inflows from Belgium into India amounted to US $ 896.09 million during April 2000 to March 2016 making Belgium as 22ndlargest investor in India.
There are around 160 Belgian companies present in India.Indian companies have also been investing in Belgium. Several Indian companies, particularly in the IT and software sectors, such as TCS, Infosys, Tech Mahindra and HCL, have established base in Belgium to cater to the Belgian as well as European markets.
To promote seafood export, India participates in the ‘Seafood Expo Global’ - the world’s largest seafood trade event – held annually in the third week of April in Belgium, in a big way. The India Pavilion during the expo from 26-28 April 2016 had the theme of ‘Incredible Seafood from Incredible India’.
There is an on-going cooperation between Ministry of Shipping of India andthe Antwerp Port Authority of Belgium in the field of training. A MoU was signed between India and Antwerp Port on 12th February 2015 to enable Antwerp Port to organise training for Indian officials in Mumbai. A Letter of Intent on the implementation of the MoU for cooperation in Shipping was signed on May 2, 2016.
India and Belgium have a cultural agreement in place since 1973. India was the partner country for the prestigious Europalia-India Cultural Festival held from 4 October 2013 to 26 January 2014. The festival was jointly inaugurated by Rashtrapatiji and the King of the Belgians. The festival included nearly 300 events showcasing Indian art and antiquities, music and dance performances, cinema, theatre, literature, as well as cuisine, hosted by about 200 partner venues across Belgium.
Previously, an Indian festival 'TEJAS' organized by ICCR was heldin Brussels from October 2006 to January 2007.
The then EAM Shri Salman Khurshid inaugurated a bust of Mahatma Gandhi in the office complex of the Governor of the Antwerp province on 30 January 2013. A bust of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore was inaugurated at the Literary Garden in the Faculty of Arts of the Katholic University of Leuven on the occasion of Gurudev’s 154th Birth Anniversary on May 7, 2015.
Cooperation in Science and Technology:
India and Belgium cooperate in the field of Science and Technologyunder the frameworkof an MoU signed during the visit of the Belgian PM to India in November 2006. A Joint Committee on S&T has been established based on the agreement. The last meeting of the Joint Committee was held on 29th Sep 2015 in New Delhi.
During the official visit in March 30, 2016 to Belgium, Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Charles Michel jointly carried out the remote technical activation of a 3.6 metre optical telescope located at Deosthal in Uttarakhand. The telescope at the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES) has been installed in the Uttarakhand Himalayas, as a result of close collaboration between scientists from the two countries, especially between the teams of ARIES in India, and AMOS (Advanced Mechanical and Optical Systems) in Belgium. It will contribute to observations for several frontline scientific applications.
India and Belgium cooperate in dedicated fields in Science and Technology under the frameworks of MoU on cooperation in space technology (1998), MoU between TERI, India (The Energy and Resources Institute) and VITO-Belgium (2014). The MoU between BARC and SCK – SEN (Belgian Nuclear Research Centre, 2012) covers cooperation in management of nuclear waste, geological disposal technique, advance research reactor systems and collaboration in the context of INPRO project of the IAEA.
Around 800 Indian students are pursuing various courses in educational institutions of Belgium, including University of Ghent, Leuven, Antwerp and Brussels. Five MoUs were signed during the State visit of Rashtrapatiji in 2013, namely: a) MoU between JNU and University of Ghent,b) MoU between Delhi University and University of Ghent, c) MoU between Delhi University and Group T International Engineering Academy of the University of Leuven,Belgium d) MoU between DU and Free University of Brussels (ULB) e) MoU between the University of Hyderabad and University of Ghent.
ICCR has sponsored a Hindi chairat the University of Ghent since 1988 and at the University of Leuven since 2013 on Contemporary Indian Studies.
Commemoration of the supreme sacrifice of Indian soldiers during First World War:
More than 9,000 Indian troops had made the supreme sacrifice in Flanders fields, Belgium, during the First World War. To commemorate the sacrifice made by Indian soldiers, an Indian Memorial Pillar was reinstalled alongside Menin Gate in Ieper in 12 March 2011, where the annual Armistice Day celebrations are held.
Belgium invited India to participate in the centenary events to commemorate WW I being held from 2014-2018. For the centenary celebrations, Belgian Government organized two international events. Gen (Retd) Vijay Kumar Singh MoS for External Affairs represented India at the events. USI (United Services Institute), New Delhi and In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres organized an international seminar on “Indians and Western Front” during 24-25 October 2014 at Ypres.
The annual commemoration ceremony for the India Soldiers, who participated in the First World War, took place on 12 November 2015 at the Indian Memorial in Ypres, Belgium. The commemoration also included Indian Army Memorial Concert at Knokke Heist in Belgium on 11 November 2015.
People to People contacts:
The Indian Diaspora in Belgium numbers around 18,000 as per estimates from the local Government. Of this, nearly 10,000 are Indian citizens. Around 1500 Indian IT professionals work for various Belgian companies along with around 800 Indian students in various universities. Around 2,500 NRIs/PIOs are based in Antwerp, mainly involved in the diamond trade.