Home India Corner Bilateral Relations Reassuring Portrait Indo-Belgian Relations Beyond Economic Partnership

Reassuring Portrait Indo-Belgian Relations Beyond Economic Partnership

Reassuring Portrait of Indo-Belgian Relations through and Beyond Economic Partnership

Reassuring Portrait Indo-Belgian Relations Beyond Economic Partnership

The Indo-Belgian relationship represents a flourishing affiliation deeply rooted in interweaving history, shared values and interests, cultural and linguistic diversity, respect for pluralism and the rule of law, analogous democratic federal republic models of governance, showcase of strapping commercial and political ties. The diplomatic relations between India and Belgium were acknowledged in 1947 and have since grown appreciably. Today, Belgium has emerged as one of India’s most important trading partners in the European Union (EU). Belgium is presently India’s third most important European trading partner.

Indo-Belgium Trade

The trade volume between India and Belgium indicates strength of economic ties between two nations. Export and import trade between the two nations depict the elastic trade and transactions image with almost similar trend of percentage of share of India’s import trade and the percentage share of export trade to Belgium. This is an encouraging picture for strengthening trade ties between two countries.

According to Belgium Foreign Trade Agency, the common export items between India and Belgium appear in the table. Indian diamond market is enticing the diamond exports from Belgium and is expected to be double of present Indian diamond market by 2020.

Records on services trade between India and Belgium demonstrate that India enjoys a favourable balance in terms of service trade. Belgium import of services from India witnessed a moderately increasing trend. Indo-Belgian service trade occupies 25th rank in the last decade. The services trade export by Belgium to India incorporates transportation (Railway, Air, Sea, and Road) services, communications services, travel services which are revealing and increasing trend. India exports services to Belgium, like, merchanting, operational leasing services, accounting, auditing, legal services, book keeping, tax consultancy services, advertising, marketing research, opinion polling services, waste treatment, depollution services, information technology (IT) and telecommunication services.

   Indo-Belgium Export and Import Trade                                                                                Value in US$ millionReassuring Portrait Indo-Belgian Relations Beyond Economic Partnership

Exports from India to Belgium

• Gems and Jewellery (Polished)
• Minerals (including Petroleum Products)
• Chemical and Chemical Products
• Base Metals and Articles
• Textiles

Exports from Belgium to India

• Gems and Jewellery (Mainly Rough
• Chemicals and Chemical Products
• Machinery and Mechanical Products
• Plastics
• Base Metals and Articles

It is amazing to know that businesses of both countries are playing an important role in bringing the nations together. The partnership between the two nations is more realistic to explain the picture of business and corporate involvement witnessing 1,356 number of Belgium companies involved in exports to India; 160 numbers of Belgium companies operating in India and 80 Indian business houses operating in Flanders region of Belgium.

From investment point of view, Belgium is 24th largest investor in India and 10 among the European Union. But, low level of FDI flow towards India indicates only ample scope for furthering the partnership and collaboration between two countries.

It is positive to make a note that many Indian companies have shown interest in investing in Belgium, especially in the energy, ports, and software and biotechnology sectors. The Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement, the Bilateral Investment Promotion Agreement (1997) and the Agreement on Economic, Industrial, Scientific and Technological Co-operation (1990) between India and Belgium facilitate bi-lateral trade and joint ventures. Indian software companies such as TCS, HCL and Infosys are active in Brussels. Belgian companies continue to employ Indian IT experts and it is estimated that Belgium needs a further 6000 IT experts. There is scope for the successful Indian pharmaceutical industry to establish joint ventures with Belgian companies so that Indian products can be
freely sold in the EU.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Steven Vanackere had a high profile meeting with the Vice President of India, Mr Hamid Ansari in his tenure. The 10 agreements signed between the Indian and Belgian companies are in the sectors of logistics and infrastructure, renewable energy, transport and engineering. Specific seminars in these sectors have had also been organized for business people active in these sectors from both countries. The economic mission is multi-sector with clusters in automobile, aeronautics, transport infrastructure, clean technology and renewable energy, bio-pharma, audiovisual and diamonds.

Reassuring Portrait Indo-Belgian Relations Beyond Economic Partnership

Science and Technology Cooperation

India-Belgium scientific cooperation started with signinging a memorandum of agreement in 1998. India cooperated in the European Union Gelileo projects where Belgium companies were involved. Later on a framework agreement for science and technology cooperation was signed by Belgium PM visit to India in the years 2006. Under the agreement 2006, an India-Belgium joint committee on S&T was set up. At the third joint meeting 2013, the progress on cooperation for science and technology was reviewed. India-Belgium has had a memorandum of understanding cooperation of space technology, which was inked by the both parties in 1998.

The MOU between BARC and SCK – SEN has been signed in June 2012 covering cooperation in management of nuclear waste, geological disposal technique, advance research reactor systems and collaboration in the context of INPRO project of the IAEA. The collaboration between Indian and IMEC in the field of semiconductor, including capacity building in R&D, education and training etc. are aready explored possibilities for partnership for both the countries.

People to People Contact
People to people contact can bring more proximity to the partnership between two countries. It is reported that India Diaspora in Belgium is around 25000, while Belgium issues nearly 30000 long term visa, 1250 short term visa to Indian citizens every year . There are over 1 million immigrants (10 percent of population) and of these there are 14,000 of Indian origin. Found that, already 2,500 Indians have acquired Belgian citizenship because Belgian families have adopted them.

Educational Cooperation

Education is great media for ensuring people to people contract between two countries. Educational exchanges have strengthened; there are around 1000 Indian students currently in Belgium. Indian students are the largest beneficiaries of the scholarships and student exchange programmes offered by the European Union (EU) under Erasmus Mundus, Marie Curie and other programmes. As a result nearly around 600-800 Indian students are pursuing various courses in educational institutions of Belgium, including University of Ghent, Leuven, Antwerp and Brussels.

To further strengthen this engagement in the field of education, following 5 MoUs were signed during the visit of President of India to Belgium in October 2013:
(i) MoU between Jawaharlal Nehru University and University of Ghent
(ii) MoU between Delhi University and University of Ghent
(iii) MoU between Delhi University and group-T International Engineering Academy of University of Leuven
(iv) MoU between Delhi University and Université Libre De Bruxelles (ULB)
(v) MoU between University of Hyderabad and University of Ghent

There are two ICCR sponsored chairs in Belgium, one at the University of Ghent (Hindi Chair) and the second at the University of Leuven (Indian Studies). There are hundreds of potential Indian institutes of higher learning that can be partner with institutes of Belgium which need diplomacy for educational relationship between the two countries.

To make successful and effective educational cooperation demand the strong the cultural cooperation between two countries. Higher education is stated as one of the areas of cooperation between two countries. Flanders investment and trade road show extended invitation to Indian educational enterprise to Belgium. Educational institutes concentrating on medical and engineering education can be the vehicles for collaboration and joint work by the two countries.

Reassuring Strong Ties between India and Belgium
Belgium is strategically significant for India. Belgium is showing its interest especially in the areas of urban and infrastructure development in India with a keenness to develop a infrastructure development fund in collaboration with Indian investment companies. Belgium is already involved with various state development projects in India. Its initiative for developing Indian port in Chennai and Mumbai is commendable. Belgium based collaboration also entangles with railway station development. Beyond this, Belgium is positive and expecting to keenly invest in shipping, aviation, logistics, information technology, green technology and chemical projects in India.

There is scope for the successful Indian pharmaceutical industry to establish joint ventures with Belgian companies so that Indian products can be freely sold in the EU. India needs to have a strong presence in Brussels – a presence that can connect Indian entrepreneurs to tap the full potential of agro-processing in India, development of renewable energy e.g. biomass, wind and solar, leather and textile industries. India needs competent industrialists as well as diplomats to represent its interest in the European Union (EU).

The joint statements of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Belgium Prime Minister, Mr Charles Michel in Brussal on 30th March, 2016 focussed on strengthening bilateral relations based on potential cooperation. Let this initiative of both Prime Ministers for developing further the bilateral relations be an example in the eye of diplomacy for the entire world.


By: Dr Arup Barman