King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium, who will arrive in India tomorrow, will begin their seven-day maiden state visit to the country with a trip to the iconic Taj Mahal, the Belgian envoy here has said. Belgian Ambassador to India Jan Luykx said this would be their “first state visit” to India after Philippe ascended the throne in 2013. In 2010, Philippe had led a Belgian Trade Mission to the country, as the then Crown Prince. The visit aimed at enhancing bilateral ties, including in trade in other areas of cooperation, will also mark 70 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The theme of the visit is innovative partnership for the 21st century. According to the official Twitter handle of the Belgian mission here, the first state visit from that country was by King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola in 1970. King Albert II and Queen Paola of Belgium had also paid a state visit to India in November 2008. Incidentally, the royal couples in the preceding two visits had also toured the iconic Mughal-era monument in Agra, which is a UNESCO world heritage site. “The King and Queen will arrive in India on November 5 evening. They will then go to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. The next leg of the visit would be in Delhi, where they would spend two days and finally the last two days in Mumbai. “They (the couple) will leave on the morning of November 11,” Luykx told PTI on the sidelines of an event last evening.
The King will meet President Ram Nath Kovind and hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi here. King Philippe will also be accompanied by a business delegation of nearly 90 people comprising CEOs of Belgian companies. Chiefs of several academic institutions and members from the media would also accompany him during the visit. The Belgian envoy made the remarks at an exhibition of rare photographs of Mahatma Gandhi that was launched here at the Bikaner House. The exhibition’s opening ceremony was attended by Luykx, Russia’s Ambassador to India Nikolay Rishatovich Kudashev, senior officials from the French, German, Dutch and the US embassies among others. Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi inaugurated the exhibition.
The Belgian envoy, earlier during his address at the event said, “Though Gandhi never visited Belgium but his spirit touches all.” “We have two memorials, statues of Gandhi, one each in Antwerp and Brussels. Besides, we have many streets named after him and a postal stamp was also released in his honour,” Luykx said. Belgium was also among the first European countries to establish a diplomatic mission in India after independence. The royal couple are to visit India at the invitation of the President. During their stay, they will also commemorate Indian soldiers’ effort of defending Belgium during the World War I and lay a wreath at the India Gate.
King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola during their visit 47 years ago, were received at the airport by then President V V Giri. Besides, the Taj Mahal, the royal couple had also paid homage to the Mahatma by laying a wreath at his memorial at Rajghat. The king had visited the Qutub Minar as well. The official Twitter handle of the Belgian Embassy has shared a black and white picture of the couple sitting against the backdrop of the Moghul monument in 1970.