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King Philippe and Queen Mathilde back home from India

King Philippe and Queen Mathilde have recently landed at the airport of Melsbroek, near Brussels. The pair returning from a five day State Visit to India. The two countries celebrate 70 years of diplomatic ties this year.

The King started the last day of the State Visit with a moment of remembrance. The King remembered the victims of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. He lighted candles, laid some flowers at the memorial place in the hotel and signed the guest book.

P: Libois Corenthin, FPS Foreign Affairs

Then King Philippe and Queen Mathilde headed outside to see a cricket training at the Oval Maidan in Bombay. The training was organised by UNICEF India. Cricket is said to be originated in Flanders, Belgium and is India’s most famous sport today. Philippe and Mathilde tried to play the sport themselves as they were encouraged by Virender Sehwag, a famous Indian cricket player. Queen Mathilde was wearing a maxi red dress and heels as she tried the sport. She said afterwards that it was really fun but that there are complicated game rules. Queen Mathilde stated afterwards: “Sport can empower children to recognize their own potential and advocate for changes in society.” Therefore the King and Queen thought it was important to bring attention to the sport.

Queen Mathilde tries to play cricket for the first time. (P: Libois Corenthin, FPS Foreign Affairs)

At noon, His Majesty attended a luncheon with top Indian and Belgian company leaders. The focus of the meeting was promoting Belgium as a preferred investment destination in Europe. Meanwhile, the Queen had lunch with Anita Dongre and other inspiring Indian women. They exchanged ideas about empowerment.


P: Libois Corenthin, FPS Foreign Affairs

In the afternoon King Philippe and Queen Mathilde met with the Belgian Sister Jeanne. Sister Jeanne founded the National Domestic Workers Movements. The organisation champions the cause of domestic workers in India and led a strong grassroots movement to understand their challenges and address the problems they face. Sister Jeanne has won several prizes with her work. Today she lives in Belgium because of her bad health condition but she used to live in India. The King and Queen joined Sister Jeanne for a lighting of the lamp ceremony. King Philippe and Queen Mathilde took the time to talk with the members of the organisation. Afterwards, the King said: “A wonderful example of what we are able to do when we open our eyes to the needs of others and decide to help them.” 

At the end of the day, it was time for the King and Queen to thank their hosts. The Belgian “Scala & Kolacny Brothers” performed for Their Majesties and even sang an Indian song.

The Royal Couple also took the time to meet in private with the Indian stewardess Nidhi Chaphekar, who was a victim of the terrorist attacks in Brussels on 22 March 2016. The picture of the woman was published worldwide in newspapers. Their Majesties had already received her at the Royal Palace in Brussels. They also visited her when she was still in the hospital after the attacks but she was still in a coma at the time.

Then it was time to board the plane for the last time and to head home. The King and Queen said they will definitely return to India and that the visit was very successful. Their Majesties landed on Saturday afternoon.

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