After UK and Germany, Belgium ready to engage with Modi

After UK and Germany, Belgium ready to engage with Modi

After UK and Germany, another European nation--Belgium--today said that it is ready to engage with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

"We are very willing to interact with him (Modi) at the first given opportunity and would like to take forward business relations. Would also say that everybody is welcome to Europe," Belgium Consul general to Mumbai Karl Van den Bossche told reporters here on a question about Modi.

"EU is positive and constructive about reaching out to Gujarat and is also willing to engage with the chief minister," Van den Bossche said after opening a Belgium visa application centre here.

Belgium, which has rich business ties with Gujarat due to two-way diamond trade, opened its visa application centre in the city here today.

"But we are also for the balanced view and justice be done by way of the courts for those incidents," he said apparently indicating to the 2002 riots.

European Union had halted diplomatic relations with Gujarat after the 2002 post-Godhra riots in which more than 1,000 people were killed.

However, in October last year, UK became the first EU country to engage with Gujarat chief minister, lifting the 10 year diplomatic boycott. Later, after the Gujarat elections Germany and some other EU states also softened their stand on Modi.

Gujarat's relation with Belgium is robust due to the diamond trade, as out of the two-way yearly trade of 13 million Euros between India and that country, 80 per cent is due to diamonds.

"In 2012 we received well over 5,000 visa applications from Gujarat. The ties between Belgium and Gujarat are particularly strong mainly thanks to diamond trade but also more and more other sectors. Moreover a few thousand Gujaratis have made Belgium and specifically Antwerp their home," the consul general said.

"Next step in our focus on India is the opening of Consulate General in Chennai," he added.