Belgian King Albert II to visit India from Nov 3-12

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New Delhi, Nov 2 (UNI) Belgian King Albert II will arrive here late tonight on a ten-day state visit to India to consolidate bilateral ties and hold discussions with Indian leaders on a host of issues including trade and investment, environment and culture.

The Belgian King, who will be accompanied by Queen Paola, Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht and a 180-member economic and academic delegation, will hold discussions with President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh besides having meetings with UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday.

''He will discuss with the Indian leadership a wide range of bilateral issues and topics of global interest like the current financial turmoil, climate change and energy,'' officials said.

The same day, he would have a luncheon meeting with Indian business leaders, they added.

The huge delegation to accompany the King would include 40 businessmen, 14 heads of Universities and Centres of higher education. It would also include representatives from various sectors like diamonds, pharmaceuticals, logistics, engineering, finance and investment.

The two countries share a close economic relationship owing to a formidable Indian business community that dominates 60 per cent of the diamond trade in the Belgian port city of Antwerp.

The King would also visit Agra, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and Mammalapurum during his stay in India.

''His programme in India will include several business interactions, seminars and engagements relating to enhancing bilateral economic and academic cooperation,'' an External Affairs Ministry spokesman said.

The King would also visit some sites of historical and cultural interest in different states of India.

Tomorrow, he is due to visit the Taj at Agra.

He begins his state tour on Tuesday with a ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

He would reach Mumbai on November 7, Hyderabad on November 8 and Chennai from November 9-12. The King would leave for Brussels on November 12.

Indo-Belgian relations have been traditionally warm and friendly and are based on rich cultural heritage and commitment to common values of multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-linguistic society and democracy, officials noted.

Bilateral relations are underpinned by strong mutual interests in trade and investment, they said.

Belgium is the third largest trade partner of India in the EU with an annual bilateral trade turnover of 8.6 billion Euros in 2007.

''The Indian diamond industry community in Belgium is concentrated around Antwerp and makes a valuable contribution to the Belgian economy.

The two-way trade in diamonds, gems and jewellery constitutes the backbone of our commercial relations,'' the spokesman said.

UNI RB RJ BST1952

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