Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived here today for a hectic day-long visit during which he will attend the India-EU Summit and hold bilateral talks with his Belgian counterpart Charles Michel. Though terror is expected to figure prominently both at the Summit and also in the bilateral talks in the wake of the Brussels suicide attacks last week, Modi will strive to advance India’s partnership with EU in priority areas such as ‘Make in India’ and ‘Smart Cities’. “A red carpet at dawn. PM @narendramodi receives a warm welcome as he arrives in Brussels,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted soon after the Prime Minister’s arrival in the Belgian capital. Modi’s visit comes days after the March 22 terror attack here in which at least 32 people were killed, including an Indian, Raghavendran Ganeshan, who was an Infosys employee from Bengaluru.
The 13th India-EU Summit is being held after a gap of four years. The last Summit was held in New Delhi in 2012 and negotiations remained deadlocked over several key issues. Besides firming up India-EU counter-terror partnership, the Summit here is expected to evince interest in other projects like cleaning of Ganga on the lines of River Rhine and Danube. EU is India’s biggest trading partner as a bloc with trade amounting to USD 126 billion and it is also India’s largest export destination with exports worth USD 65 billion. It is the largest source of FDI in India at USD 69 billion. Soon after his arrival, Modi has a series of meetings lined up including one with indologists along with a meeting with members of the European Parliament and the Belgian Parliament.
On the eve of the Prime Minister’s visit, the EU 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.” “India-EU Summit and strong economic & investment ties with Belgium will be on the agenda during my Brussels visit,” Modi had said before embarking on his visit. He had hailed the “resilience and spirit” of its people in the wake of the horrific Brussels bombings and said India stands “shoulder-to-shoulder” with them. From Brussels, Modi will leave for Washington to attend the Nuclear Security Summit on March 31 and April 1 and from there he will travel to Saudi Arabia on a two-day visit with a focus on boosting energy and security cooperation.