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Belgium PM lauds India's economic progress

Today around 500 Indian families control more than 60 per cent of Antwerp's rough and polished diamond trade.

india Updated: May 06, 2006 17:02 IST

Indians have the right economic instinct and India is ready to become a global economic power, according to Belgium's Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt.

Speaking at the launch dinner of India's ICICI Bank in Antwerp, Verhofstadt also hailed the success of Antwerp as the world's rough diamond capital and the achievements of the Indian business community in the port city.

As the chief guest at the launch on Thursday, Verhofstadt lit the traditional "diya" along with the Indian ambassador to Belgium Dipak Chatterjee and top ICICI management officials, Sonjoy Chatterjee, Lalita Gupte and KV Kamath.

Indian diamond merchants, mainly hailing from the small Gujarati town of Palanpur, arrived in Antwerp in the 70s and globalised the diamond business dominated by Jews since the 15th century.

"I'm delighted that India's top diamond companies have decided to establish a foothold in Belgium. Indeed the Indian community soon developed into the most important economic pillar in the diamond trade," he said.

Today around 500 Indian families control more than 60 per cent of Antwerp's rough and polished diamond trade which posted a collective turnover of $36 billion in the last year and has generated 30,000 jobs, according to INEP agency.

Lauding India's rapid economic growth rate, Verhofstadt said that the fact that India's second largest bank (ICICI) was opening its only branch in continental Europe in Belgium was a confirmation "that the economy of Antwerp and its diamond trade in particular enjoy worldwide recognition".

He said the presence of ICICI bank was a "powerful incentive", urging potential investors from India and worldwide to come to Belgium.

"The ICICI bank will be a new light house, illuminating the path to Belgium for other investors," Verhofstadt said.

Belgium is India's fourth largest import trading partner. Nearly 75 per cent of the bilateral trade between the two countries is conducted through Antwerp's diamond sector.

"Relations with India are very good but I will go back to India at the end of the year. I intend to make relations even better," Verhofstadt said.

The Indian ambassador spoke about growing Belgian-Indian ties and welcomed the opening of one more Indian bank in Belgium.

The State Bank of India already has a foothold in Antwerp's diamond market. The Bank of Baroda also has a branch in Brussels.