External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday called on Belgium’s King Phillipe here and discussed bilateral relations. “EAM @SushmaSwaraj call on His Majesty The King Philippe of Belgium. Engaging conversation on expanding warm and friendly bilateral relations,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted. King Phillipe and Queen Mathilde arrived here on Sunday on a week-long state visit to India. This is the royal couple’s first visit to India since King Phillipe’s ascension to the throne in 2013. Later on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold bilateral talks with the Belgian King. President Ram Nath Kovind will hold a meeting with the King and Queen while Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu will also call on the royal couple. King Philippe and Queen Mathilde are being accompanied by six ministers and a high-powered business delegation comprising CEOs of nearly 90 Belgian companies, and over a dozen chiefs of academic institutions. India is Belgium’s second largest export destination and third largest trade partner outside the European Union (EU).
In 2016-17, bilateral trade amounted to $13.28 billion of which exports from India to Belgium accounted for $5.65 billion while imports from Belgium accounted for $6.62 billion. Diamond trade overwhelmingly dominates Indo-Belgian commerce and trade in gems and jewellery constitutes over 75 per cent of the bilateral trade, with diamonds making up more than 80 per cent of Belgian exports and more than 40 per cent of Belgian imports from India. Belgium’s cumulative investments in India are at over $1.01 billion for the period April 2000-June 2017. The Indian diaspora in Belgium numbers around 18,000, according to Belgian government estimates. Of this nearly 10,000 are Indian citizens. Around 1,500 Indian IT professionals work for Belgian companies along with around 800 Indian students in various universities.
Modi visited Belgium in March 2016 at the invitation of his Belgian counterpart Charles Michel. This is the third state visit to India by the Belgian royalty, the earlier ones happening in 1970 and 2008. A Belgian King visits a country only once in the course of his reign.