Undeterred by the terror attacks that shook Brussels, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will go ahead with his Belgium visit as planned, India’s external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said.
His trip to Belgium is part of a three-nation tour that begins by the end of this month. His first foreign trip this year, Modi is scheduled to travel to the US – where he will attend the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington – and Saudi Arabia. “Prime Minister Modi will hold the bilateral summit in Belgium. The Prime Minister will then proceed to Washington where he will attend the Nuclear Summit on March 31,” Swarup said. Addressing a media briefing in New Delhi, Swarup said, “The Prime Minister will pay his first official visit to Brussels for the 13th India-EU Summit at the invitation of President of the European Council Donald Tusk and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker. The European Union is India’s leading trade and investment partner and biggest export destination. India and EU are also strategic partners since 2004. The 13th India-EU Summit aims to deepen the strategic partnership and advance collaboration in priority areas for India’s growth and development.”
He also suggested that Modi will hold a bilateral summit meeting with Belgium at the invitation of Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel. “Belgium is India’s second largest trade partner within the EU. The bilateral meeting between the two prime ministers will focus on further enhancing the economic partnership. The two prime ministers will also hold discussions on regional and global issues of mutual interest.”
An unofficial agenda of the visit states the PM, in his trademark style, will address the Indian diaspora in the region. After Brussels, Modi will proceed to Washington DC to participate in the 4th Nuclear Security Summit to be held on March 31 and April 1. “Fifty-two countries and four international organisations are expected to attend the 2016 summit,” Swarup said. Another highlight of the trip is a possible meet-up with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif who is also expected to participate in the summit.
NaMo will fly to Riyadh after the summit for an invitation extended by King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud. This will be the first prime ministerial visit to Saudi Arabia after former PM Manmohan Singh’s in 2010. Modi will hold discussions with the King on bilateral, regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest.
Swarup said, “India and Saudi Arabia share friendly relations based on close people-to-people contacts. The ‘strategic partnership’ established through the Riyadh Declaration in 2010 envisions a deeper engagement in political, economic, security and defence areas.”
34 killed in explosions
Explosions went off at the airport and a metro station in Brussels on Tuesday (March 22), forcing maximum security level to be enforced across the country. At least 34 people were killed and dozens injured in the attacks. The attacks came within four days of the Belgian police arresting Salah Abdeslam, the prime surviving suspect in the November 2015 terror attacks that killed 130 people across multiple locations in Paris.
Two Jet Airways crew injured: Two Jet Airways flight attendants have been injured in explosions at Brussels Airport, a source has told Gulf News. “Two Jet Airways crew injured but stable. All Jet Airways passengers are safe and in a holding area,” a source said. The source identified the injured crew members as Nidhi Chapekar and Amit Motwani from Mumbai.
Bollywood singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya’s family, including his wife Sumati Bhattacharya and son were in Brussels at the time of the suicide attack. Abhijeet shared that his wife and son have been evacuated and are in a safe zone now.
Model and actress Gul Panag's husband, Rishi Attari, who is a Jet Airways pilot, was trapped in an aircraft that he was piloting, on Brussels' Zaventem Airport. Attari's flight landed at the airport minutes before the bomb attacks took place at the departure hall of the airport. The pilot, along with other crew members and the passengers, were trapped in the aircraft for hours before they were finally shifted to a safe place at the airport. Thirty five passengers from Central Gujarat including Sanjay Patel from Baroda, Bharat Patel and Vihar Patel from near Baroda were there at the airport during the explosion. Totally there were 5 to 7,000 people at the time of the explosion. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. Rebuking the attack, Modi sent a tweet saying, “News from Brussels is disturbing. The attacks are condemnable. Condolences to families of the deceased. May those injured recover quickly.”
Modi’s stand on Brexit: Prime Minister Modi has always kept a keen eye on the neighbours and his strategic partners ever since he took office in 2014.
With Britain divided over the thriving Brexit issue, Modi had put in his two cents on the issue. The Indian Prime Minister during his three-day visit to the UK last year in November refused to be directly involved in the issue, yet made himself amply clear.
“As far as India is concerned, if there is an entry point for us to the EU, that is the UK and that is Great Britain. If we have economic cooperation with any country, then the economic cooperation is with the UK. Yes, we are going to other EU countries as well, but we will continue to consider the UK as our entry point to the EU.”