India and Belgium on Wednesday resolved to work together in the fight against terrorism, according to a joint statement issued after a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Belgian counterpart Charles Michel at Brussels.
“The leaders expressed deep shock and anguish at the dastardly terrorist attacks in Brussels last week and condemned them in the strongest possible terms,” the statement said.
At least 35 people, including an Indian national, were killed in twin explosions at Zaventem airport and in another explosion at a metro station in the Belgian capital on March 22.
“Reaffirming that terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group, India and Belgium resolved to work together to better understand the phenomenon of radicalisation, and counter the misuse of religion by groups and countries for inciting hatred and violent extremism or perpetrating terrorist acts,” the statement said.
Modi and Michel also called for early adoption of the India-initiated Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCO=IT) and strict compliance with all relevant UN Security Council resolutions designating terrorists and terrorist groups.
“The two leaders also resolved to work together to drive forward international efforts in forums like the Financial Action Task Force (FATF),” the statement said.
On economic cooperation, the two prime ministers welcomed the “robust bilateral economic engagement” between the two countries.
Belgium is India’s second largest trade partner in goods in the European Union (EU) and India is Belgium’s second largest export destination outside the EU.
Recognising the importance of the diamond sector in bilateral trade and the ongoing cooperation in the framework of the Kimberley Process, the two leaders resolved to further consolidate this mutually beneficial partnership.
“The leaders recognised the key role of the services sector in the two economies, and encouraged partnerships between services sector industries particularly in the areas of information technology, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and renewable energy,” the statement said.
Realising the need to tap into the full potential of the EU-India strategic partnership, the two leaders looked forward to the resumption of negotiations on the India-EU Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) on mutually-agreed terms.
“The two prime ministers welcomed the conclusion of the amending protocol that makes the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) more comprehensive and contemporary,” the statement said.
The two prime ministers also welcomed the progress under the MoU on renewable energy between the competent Belgian authorities at federal and regional levels and India’s ministry of new and renewable energy of India, and the inaugural meeting of the joint working group earlier this month identifying smart cities, waste to energy, small wind turbines, water purification technologies involving renewable energy and zero emission buildings as priority areas for joint collaboration.
“Noting the longstanding cooperation between the two countries in the ports sector, they welcomed the imminent extension of the agreement between the government of Flanders and the ministry of shipping for another two years, as well as the ongoing collaboration between the Port of Antwerp and the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust to develop a joint training centre under the MoU (memorandum of understanding) signed in February 2015,” the statement said.
On people-to-people ties, Modi and Michel welcomed the numerous projects in collaborative research, student mobility and exchange of faculty between higher educational institutions of Belgium and India.
“They looked forward to further strengthening of the academic engagement between institutions on both sides,” the statement said.
“Noting that 40,000 Belgian tourists visit India every year and Belgium receives about 60,000 Indian tourists every year, the two Leaders welcomed the e-tourist visa facility extended by India to Belgian nationals to promote tourism,” it added.