Ahead of embarking on a tour of Belgium, the US and Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday saluted the resilience of Belgians following the March 22 terror attacks in Brussels.
“No words are enough to salute the resilience and spirit of the people of Belgium,” Modi said in a pre-departure statement. He leaves on Tuesdaynight and returns to New Delhi on April 3.
“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.”
At least 35 people, including an Indian national, were killed in twin explosions at the Zaventem airport and one at a metro station in the Belgian capital on March 22.
During his stay in Brussels on Wednesday, Modi will attend a bilateral summit with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and also the 13th India-European Union (EU) Summit.
“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.”
The prime minister said he and Michel would also remote activate the India-Belgium ARIES (Aryabhatta Research Institute for Observational Sciences) telescope at Devasthal near Nainital.
He said the EU was a vital trading partner and the biggest export destination for India.
“This summit will advance our multifaceted engagement across a whole range of domains,” he said.
While in Brussels, Modi said he would also meet members of the European Parliament (MEPs), Indologists, Belgian CEOs as well as a cross section of the Indian diaspora in Belgium.
“I would also interact with the Board Members of the Association of Diamond Traders in Belgium,” he said.
There are a large number of Indians in Belgium’s diamond trading hub of Antwerp.
He is to also address a community programme and interact with the Indian community in Brussels. There are around 20,000 expatriate Indians in Belgium.
After Belgium, Modi will be in Washington DC on March 31 to participate in the Fourth Nuclear Security Summit, being hosted by US President Barack Obama.
“The summit would deliberate on the crucial issue of threat to nuclear security caused by nuclear terrorism. Leaders would discuss ways and measure through which to strengthen the global nuclear security architecture, especially to ensure that non-state actors do not get access to nuclear material,” he stated.
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is not attending the Nuclear Security Summit following the Lahore blast on Sunday that killed at least 70 people.
There had been wide speculation that the two prime ministers would meet in Washington on the sidelines of the summit.
It would have been their second meeting after Modi’s stop-over meet with Sharif in Lahore on December 25 last year.
Modi said he would meet several world leaders on the sidelines of the Washington summit “to carry forward the agenda of bilateral cooperation with those nations”.
“I also look forward to my interaction with the scientists associated with LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observator) project,” he said.
LIGO is a large-scale physics experiment and observatory to detect gravitational waves.
On his way back, Modi would visit Saudi Arabia on April 2 and 3 at the invitation of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
This will be the first prime ministerial visit from India to the Gulf kingdom after then prime minister Manmohan Singh’s visit in 2010.
“India’s ties with Saudi Arabia are special,” Modi said.
“Robust people-to-people ties constitute a key component of our engagement. I plan to work with the Saudi leadership to expand and deepen our bilateral relations. Discussions on the regional situation would also be on the agenda.”
Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth largest trading partner, and is also India’s largest crude oil supplier accounting for one-fifth of its crude oil imports.
“In addition to meeting with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, I also look forward to my discussions with other important members of the royal family,” Modi said.
“We want the prominent Saudi businesses to partner with India’s development priorities.”
Modi said that he would also visit the Masmak Fortress, the L&T Workers’ Residential Complex and TCS All Women IT and ITeS Centre in Riyadh.
There are nearly three million expatriate Indians in Saudi Arabia, many of whom are blue collar workers.