Raghavendran Ganeshan, the IT professional who died in a blast at Maalbeek metro station last week, was at the top of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agenda for most of the day on Wednesday before going into the EU-India summit.
Focussing on terrorism during bilateral talks with his Belgian counterpart Charles Michel, Modi noted that a “precious” Indian life had been lost in the attacks in Brussels on March 22. He laid a wreath at the metro station and stood in silence for a minute in Ganeshan’s memory.
Modi told Michel: “The scourge of terrorism is increasing. It is important for all nations to fight this menace. India has been battling it for 40 years; having experienced terrorist violence ourselves on countless occasions, we share your pain.”
Thirty-two people were killed and hundreds injured when three Islamic State suicide bombers targeted the international airport and the metro station in Brussels. Ganeshan died when a bomber set off his explosives inside a metro train.
Three more Indians were injured – two employees of Jet Airways currently recovering in hospital, and a woman who was transiting through Brussels to India and suffered minor injuries at the airport.
Modi was briefed by Belgian foreign minister Didier Reynders on the circumstances of Ganeshan’s death. Top officials of the metro system were present at the wreath-laying ceremony at Maalbeek station, which remains closed since the blasts.
The Prime Minister assured some members of the European Parliament that the issue of retrospective taxation had been addressed by finance minister Arun Jaitley in the Union budget, and asked them not to have any concerns about it. Two issues were sub-judice, he noted.
Modi said all programmes of his government had been publicised only after a roadmap for their implementation had been put in place, seeking to allay apprehensions about their on-the-ground execution.
Michel and Modi remotely activated the ARIES telescope at Devsthal in Nainital, which was built in collaboration with Belgium and is the largest in Asia. “Even the sky is not the limit for our relations,” Modi remarked during the short ceremony.
Inviting Belgian investment and expertise in areas such as ports and infrastructure, Modi said India’s macroeconomic fundamentals are “robust, and at 7% plus, we are one of the fastest growing economies of the world. I believe that a combination of Belgian capacities and India’s economic growth can produce promising opportunities for businesses on both sides.”
Modi invited the king and queen of Belgium to visit India in 2017, the 70th year of India’s independence. Belgium was one of the first countries to recognise India soon after independence.
Some Belgian Indologists also called on Modi, who appreciated their work on Indian literature and culture.