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Dutch minister regerets Amsterdam incident

india Updated: Sep 11, 2006 18:05 IST
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More than two weeks after 12 Indians were detained at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport on suspicion of being terrorists, Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade Karien van Gennip has expressed regret over the "unfortunate" incident and hoped it will "not impact negatively" on relations between India and the Netherlands.

"It was a very unfortunate incident. It has been discussed extensively in media in the Netherlands," the minister said in New Delhi.

"It should not however, have a negative impact on warm and friendly relations between India and the Netherlands. We have a great relationship going on," said van Gennip, who visited India recently to promote the Netherlands as the preferred destination of investment.

Extolling the "multi-racial, multi-cultural ethos" of Dutch society, she underlined that immigrants comprise nearly half the population in Amsterdam. "Amsterdam is a mixture of various cultures. We are a very tolerant society."

Late last month, two Dutch F-16 fighters escorted a Mumbai-bound Northwestern Airlines plane after the pilot complained of suspicious behaviour by some Urdu-speaking passengers sporting long beards. Later, 12 Indian Muslims were detained and interrogated by the Dutch authorities.

They were later released after they were found to be innocent. New Delhi saw it as racial targeting and protested to the Dutch government over harassment inflicted on Indian passengers.

During her visit to India last week, the Dutch minister, aware of the damage that such an incident can cause on developing bilateral ties, made it a point to stress that there was no discrimination against Indians travelling to the Netherlands.

"People of India are very welcome to the Netherlands. We are your oldest business partner. So, we have a lot to gain from this partnership. Let us build on this partnership in technology and innovation," she said.

The minister was unstinting in her praise of India's emergence as a "geopolitical powerhouse" and its redoubtable economic prowess, especially in the area of technology and innovations.

"India has taken the lead in promoting entrepreneurial culture. A lot of people in the Netherlands admire the entrepreneurial spirit of Indians," said the Dutch minister, who came here with a large business delegation to attract Indian investment.

"I wanted to come and see India, which is emerging as a geopolitical powerhouse. It is emerging as an economic power and the leader of the region.

"You have established yourself as the back office of the world. You are also one of our friends. You are the largest democracy. We have the same entrepreneurial spirit. We can learn something from each other," she waxed eloquently.

Projecting the Netherlands as the "best place for Indian companies to access the European market", van Gennip underlined strategic advantages of investing in her country.

"For an Indian company, the Netherlands is the gateway to Europe. You can access the European Union market from there.

"There are many advantages of investing in Europe. Most people speak English, the country has an attractive fiscal climate and excellent infrastructure. The Netherlands has mostly profited from globalisation. Globalisation is also good for India," she said.

But for the minister the passage to India - her first visit to the country - turned out to be full of illuminations.

"The mystique is there in everything, but it is at the same time a very modern country. You see poor children on the streets. Mahatma Gandhi has inspired millions of Indians all over the world. It's a combination of the traditional and the modern," she said.

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