Antwerp World Diamond Centre elections witnessed an Indian onslaught this week when they swept the polls held on Wednesday.

AWDC is the governing body of Antwerp's diamond trade, presiding over a multibillion dollar business that accounts for nearly 10 per cent of Belgium's exports.

Gujarati Jain families dominate the trade in Antwerp, controlling up to 70 percent of the business.

Till recently, the body was an all-European, predominantly Jewish, affair. Despite Indians having begun to operate in Antwerp in large numbers from the 1970s, the first change at the AWDC took place in 2004, when two Indians were nominated to the board.

Antwerp has four diamond bourses: one for bort and three for gem quality goods. Since World War II families of the large Hasidic Jewish community have dominated Antwerp's diamond trading industry, although the last two decades have seen Indian and Armenian traders become increasingly important.

Antwerp World Diamond Centre, the successor to the Hoge Raad voor Diamant, plays an important role in setting standards, regulating professional ethics, training and promoting the interests of Antwerp as a centre of the diamond industry.

It was only in 2006 that changes to the system allowed some board members to be directly elected, with the result that 5 out of 6 elected members that year were Indians.

On Wednesday, all six elected members were Indians. However, there are still no Indians among the remaining six nominated officials.

Belgians, Jews, Lebanese were among those who voted for Indians.

Among the issues the newly elected board will work towards is ensuring that financing the diamond industry remains robust, a concern in recent years. Antwerp is currently fending off challenges to its status as the world's diamond capital from a range of upstart contenders, including Dubai and even Mumbai.

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