Belgian Ambassador to India, H.E. Jan Luykx in an interview with Diplomacy & Beyond showcased his keen knowledge and vast experience based on the issues of politics, history, economics, and development work. Here are the edited excerpts from the free-wheeling discussion…
- Their Majesties King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium visited India this month. This was also the first visit of His Majesty King Philippe to India following his ascension to the throne in 2013. Please highlight the importance of this high-level visit?
Their Majesties the King and the Queen of the Belgians came on a seven day State Visit to India from 5-11 Nov 2017. As this was a State Visit it was of the highest importance. The King and Queen have previously visited India in a private capacity. When he was the Crown Prince, His Majesty visited India at the head of a trade mission in 2010. Furthermore this year we are celebrating 70 years of diplomatic relations between India and Belgium, one more reason for this visit to be very important.
- The visit aimed at enhancing bilateral ties will also mark 70 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Please throw some light on all the key achievements of India-Belgium bilateral ties.
The Belgian ambassador was the first to present his credentials in Independent India on September 20, 1947. Over the years, these relations grew in every field, be it economy, trade & commerce, culture and others. There have been numerous high-level official exchanges between the two nations throughout all these years. We are also in the process of commemorating the centenary of the First World War.
Thousands of Indian soldiers valiantly defended Belgium against the invader in the fields of Flanders. Around 9,000 Indian soldiers fell in battle there. During the State Visit Their Majesties the King and the Queen paid their respects at India Gate on November 7 and they inaugurated an impressive and informative exhibition named “India in Flanders Fields” on November 8 at Manekshaw Centre, New Delhi.
- The theme of the visit was innovative partnership for the 21st century. What are the key steps taken by your government in this regard?
As the theme suggests, the relationship is a partnership that aims to be innovative, i.a. in the context of the world facing many challenges such as climate change or the implementation of the SDG’s. In order to tackle these you need intensive multilateral and bilateral cooperation.
In the framework of the overall program, the King and the Queen interacted with Indian policy makers, businessmen, academics and scientists to bring forward the innovation agenda. Various important agreements were signed during this visit.
- Moving beyond diamonds, both countries need to forge new business partnerships in different areas. What are the key areas where Belgian expertise can be used?
We had a large delegation comprising 90 CEOs representing different companies accompanying The King and the Queen. Belgian companies have high-level of expertise in sectors such as food tech, waste treatment, water treatment, smart cities and others and extensive bilateral cooperation is already in place.
- India and Belgium have suffered due to terrorism. What are the key strategic areas were both the countries can cooperate to counter such threats?
It is undeniably an important point in the bilateral context. It’s on the priority list. Also within the EU, there are co operations between the specialized agencies to counter terrorism. It will always remain a point on the agenda multilaterally and bilaterally with India.
- How is Belgium further planning to promote its world-famous tourism sector and cultural richness in India?
Our mission is to help India discover the riches our region has to offer. We have some of the best art museums and castles in the entire EU. There are more than 3,000 castles and chateaux dotted around Belgium, from the top of Flanders, to the bottom of Wallonia. Belgium is globally famous for its chocolates. For the last 100 years, the supremacy of local chocolatiers is unparalleled. The ease of moving around in the country further adds to the advantage for the incoming tourists. One has to visit Belgium in order to feel the taste of its cultural richness.
- What is your message for the readers of Diplomacy & Beyond (D&B) magazine?
Well, my only message to them is come and visit Belgium and see for yourself what a wonderful country Belgium is and observe the Belgian hospitality from close.