India host country at Belgium’s Asia Fair

February 25th, 2008 - 2:25 pm ICT by admin  

Brussels, Feb 25 (IANS) Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht has described his country’s ties with India as “excellent” at a fair near here where India plays the host country this year. “Our relations with India are excellent. The trade mission to India in 2005 under the chairmanship of His Royal Highness Prince Philip (of Belgium) has been a great success and consolidated even more our relations,” he said while inaugurating the Asia Fair 2008 Saturday in Wemmel, a suburb of Brussels.

India plays the host country to the two-day fair, organised by Belasia, a Belgian-based organisation, EuAsiaNews said. India last played the host country in the 1998 edition of the fair.

De Gucht said the visit of Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstat to India in 2006 was focussed on attracting Indian investments to Belgium.

“During this visit, I signed an agreement on social security with,” said the foreign minister.

On his part, India’s ambassador to Belgium and the European Union (EU) Dipak Chatterjee also underlined that ties between India and Belgium were “very friendly and the cooperation is growing in all fields”.

“There has been a remarkable growth in tourism traffic to India. It increased from 2.38 million in 2002 to 3.92 million in 2005. Now the figure is nearly 5 million. India is indeed one of the top ten tourist destinations in the world,” said Chatterjee in his speech.

He said the Belasia fair plays an important role in providing information about the land and people of the host country. Belasia has been organising the Asia Fair the past 16 years.

There were opening speeches too by Belasia Chairman Gilbert Roels, Jet Airways Regional Vice President Raja Segran and Director of Indian Tourism for Benelux and Scandinavian countries Manas Ranjan Pattanaik.

“This is not just a promotional fair. We want to show visitors all aspects of India as well as Asia,” said Roels.

And though the emphasis was largely on tourism, educational, development-cooperation and cultural projects were also given a platform.

Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) Belgium, which has been involved with the project “Lost Gardens of Khajuraho” for some years now where it is seeking to restore conservation agriculture in Khajuraho, as it existed in the 18th century, was the guest of honour at the fair.

The late Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi created INTACH in 1984 and in January 2004, a Belgian INTACH chapter was opened.

Jet Airways’ Segran said that by choosing Brussels as the main hub in Europe, it was being promoted as “the gateway to Europe”.

Jet Airways was generating employment here in Europe as well as serving to transport tourists both to and from India, said Segran.

He pointed out that Jet Airways now operates three flights daily from Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai to Brussels.

Pattanaik said: “India is much more than just a single country. It is an amalgamation of different ethnicities, languages, cultures, religions and peoples. There is only word to describe it - incredible!”

One of the highlights of the fair was the “Taj Mahal in Sand” sculpture by Sudarsan Pattnaik from Orissa.

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