Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Brussels Wednesday to attend the 13th India-European Union summit. The meeting, which Modi said was aimed at advancing India’s “multifaceted engagement” with the 28-nation bloc, comes just days after deadly attacks in Brussels killed 32 people.
“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,” Modi said in a statement released ahead of his maiden trip to the Belgian capital city. “Our relations with Belgium are deep rooted and have stood the test of time. Within the EU, Belgium is 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.”
A major chunk of India’s trade with Belgium is of diamonds and other precious stones, which are sent to Antwerp to be cut and polished. In the financial year 2015, for instance, India’s exports of rough diamonds and gems to Belgium were valued at nearly $2.7 billion, while it spent over $9 billion to import polished diamonds from the country.
"In Brussels, I would also be meeting with the Members of European Parliament, Indologists, Belgian CEOs as well as a wide cross section of the Indian diaspora in Belgium. I would also interact with the Board Members of the Association of Diamond Traders in Belgium," Modi said in the statement.
Meanwhile, the EU — India’s largest trading partner — accounts for nearly 11 percent of the Asian nation’s imports and 16 percent of its exports. In the 2015 fiscal year, India’s total trade with the bloc was valued at nearly over $98 billion. The EU is also one of the largest sources of foreign direct investment in India, accounting for over $39 billion in 2013 — the latest year for which official data is available.
As a result, trade and investment are likely to figure high in the agenda for the meeting between Modi and senior EU officials. In a statement released Tuesday, the EU said that the meeting would focus on, among other things, providing “political impetus” to stalled discussions over a bilateral free-trade agreement.
“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,” the EU said in the statement. “Leaders are expected to adopt declarations on a water partnership and an energy and climate partnership. The summit will also serve to enhance cooperation on counter-terrorism, research and innovation, the digital market and human rights.”