Modi to leave on three-nation tour on Tuesday

New Delhi, March 28 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi will leave on Tuesday night on a three-nation visit during which he will attend the India-EU summit in Brussels and the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.

Modi will attend the 13th India-European Union (EU) summit and a bilateral summit with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel on Wednesday during his first ever visit to Brussels.

Addressing a media conference here on Monday, Nandini Singla, joint secretary (Europe West) in the ministry of external affairs, said that India-European bilateral summits started in 2000 and the relationship was turned into a strategic partnership in 2004.

“India is one of the 10 strategic partners that the EU has today,” Singla said.

“The last (India-EU) summit was held in New Delhi in 2012,” she said.

She said that EU continued to be a global economic powerhouse and was the biggest economy in the world with a GDP of $18 trillion.

The EU is the world’s largest exporter and importer of goods and services.

For India, EU is the largest export destination and trading partner.

“Our two-way trade, including services, amounts to $1.6 billion,” Singla said.

“It is also the largest source of foreign direct investment in India with $69 billion,” she said, adding that the EU was also a global leader in establishing global norms and industry standards.

Singla said that during the summit meeting, India would aim to reinvigorate its ties with the EU.

“We seek to advance the India-EU strategic partnership by deepening and expanding cooperation,” she stated.

Trade and investment would figure prominently during the summit meeting.

Modi will meet President of the European Council Donald Tusk and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Junker.

The prime minister had met both these leaders during the G20 summit at Antalya in Turkey in November last year.

A number of agreements are expected to be exchanged following the summit meeting.

The March 22 terror attacks in Brussels will figure in Modi’s bilateral summit meeting with his Belgian counterpart Michel on March 30.

Singla said that India would look at enhancing India-Belgium cooperation in “areas of parity for us”, and also counter-terrorism.

“The recent attacks in Brussels will of course be a very important part of the discussions,” Singla said.

At least 35 people were killed in two explosions at the Zaventem airport and one at a metro station in the Belgian capital on March 22.

Singla said that during the bilateral summit meeting, India and Belgium would discuss cooperation in renewable energy, biotechnology, shipping, and information and communication technology (ICT) among other areas.

“We will also discuss how to enhance cooperation in multilateral issues and also how to step up high-level visits between both sides,” she said.

The Belgian prime minister will host a luncheon meeting during which Modi will meet Belgian businessmen and CEOs in a bid to enhance foreign direct investment (FDI) in India.

Belgium is India’s second largest trading partner in the European Union (EU).

Singla said that Modi would also interact with members of the Indian community in Belgium.

There are around 20,000 Indians in Belgium and many of them are engaged in diamond trading in Antwerp.

Another highlight of Modi’s visit will be the technical activation of Asia’s largest optical telescope at Devasthal near Nainital that has been built with Belgium’s aid.

On March 31, Modi will leave for Washington on the second leg of his visit where he will attend the two-day Fourth Nuclear Security Summit (NSS).

Leaders of 52 countries and four international organisations are expected to participate in the summit.

On April 2, on his way back to India, Modi will drop in at Riyadh for a two-day bilateral visit to Saudi Arabia.

This will be the first prime ministerial visit from India to the Gulf after the visit of then prime minister Manmohan Singh in 2010.

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