King Philippe and Queen Mathilde continued their five-day State Visit to India today, and it was full of interesting activities. The two countries celebrated 70 years of diplomatic relations.
The King and Queen boarded the plane in New Dehli as the first activity of the day. The couple and the delegation then flew to Bombay. Philippe and Mathilde were welcomed by a minister of the government of Maharashtra. The minister presented them with the books on the lives of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and Chanakya. Then, Their Majesties drove to the house of the governor of Maharashtra where they received a musical welcome. Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao and his wife hosted the couple as they had a conversation and photo opportunity.
Afterwards, the King and Queen parted to attend separate events. The Queen headed to the office of UNICEF India and watched as the pupils from the Lions School performed the Handwash Song. Dr Muriel Vermarien of the University of Hasselt (Belgium) had created the song to teach children the importance of washing their hands. Queen Mathilde was very enthusiastic and even tried the dance herself. The Queen also tried some sign language as she communicated with the deaf children. Her Majesty is already more than ten years into her position of Honorary President of UNICEF Belgium.
Meanwhile, King Philippe met with the Indian Minister of Commerce Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu to talk about the trade between Belgium and India. They discussed how to increase the trade to bring in mutual benefits to both countries.
Diamonds are the most essential product of trade between Belgium and India. Therefore, the King also joined a roundtable discussion on the best practices from the diamond business called: “How the Kimberley Process fosters social & economic development, especially in Africa”. The event focused on the contribution of the Antwerp diamond industry to social and economic development in India and around the world. The Belgian Deputy Minister Didier Reynders stressed the importance of transparency in the diamond sector.
Queen Mathilde later had a meeting with Pooja Taparia, Founder and CEO of the Arpan organisation. She informed the Queen of their Personal Safety Education Programme. Also, several children who attended the programme were in attendance. The kids spoke about how they have been spreading messages of personal safety and how they are ready to take action against sexual abuse. Afterwards, Mathilde attended the Mumbai Seminar on Life Sciences and Healthcare with several Belgian ministers and the Healthcare Minister of Maharashtra Dr Deepak Sawant.
Next, it was time to change outfits as in the late afternoon the King and Queen came back together for their next engagement. The couple attended a reception organised by the Port of Antwerp (Belgium). Several maritime sector professionals were also invited. The Minister-President of Flanders, Geert Bourgeouis gave a speech on the importance of the port.
At the end of day four of the State Visit, it was time for the highlight of the tour. The King watched as over 20 contracts were signed between Belgian and Indian businesses. There were also some contracts between Indian and Belgian universities. The Belgian ministers called the State Visit and especially the accompanying trade mission a success. A substantial Belgian trade delegation travelled with the King and Queen to India. A group picture concluded the events of the day.
Tomorrow will be the fifth and last day of the State Visit of Their Majesties to India. On Saturday, 11 November the royal pair will head back to their four children in Brussels.