says Former Prime Minister of Belgium Yves Leterme at Woxsen University International Conclave
Hyderabad, 12 January 2024 – Belgium’s former Prime Minister, His Excellency Yves Leterme delivered a compelling address in an international conclave on ‘India-EU as Strategic Partners for the Future of Higher Education’ at Woxsen University. He highlighted the intricacies of India-Belgium relations and the potential for enhanced collaboration between India and the European Union (EU).
In his 30-minute speech, the former Prime Minister reflected on the unique identity of Belgium, touched upon the linguistic and cultural diversity within the country and stressed the importance of Belgium’s democratic tradition, drawing parallels with India’s rich democratic heritage. He said, “The northern part of Belgium speaks Dutch, and the southern part speaks French, and the center comprising Brussels, is French, a minority of Dutch, but mostly English, Chinese, Hindi, Arab. We are a multinational, multicultural city with an open economy. And this is what we share with you (India). The fundamentally, deeply rooted democratic tradition characterizes Belgium. It is a democracy and has always been one, even when ruled by other nations.”
Transitioning to the central theme of India-Belgium relations, the former Prime Minister highlighted the bilateral trade between the two nations, noting the significance of sectors such as machinery, diamonds, pharmaceuticals, and textiles. He acknowledged the substantial foreign direct investment from both sides, with companies like Mittal, Tata, and others playing key roles. Moving on to the broader topic of India-EU relations, he shared valuable insights into the EU’s institutional setup. ” The EU, India, and the US are the biggest democracies in the world. The new rising power India is a democracy that protects its values while addressing the global challenges and well-balanced multinational institutions and Sustainable Development Goals agenda and Woxsen University is forging a generation of future that holds these principles,” he said.
He highlighted India’s language skills, particularly in English, as crucial for fostering cultural, economic, and diplomatic ties, emphasizing, “With Indians, we feel a kind of common values in terms of how we address the general interest, govern a country, see global challenges, think about multilateral systems. You (India) are also known as supporters of the SDG agenda. From a geopolitical point of view, you have a fantastic asset – your language skills. You speak English, which is in terms of cultural exchanges, person-to-person exchanges, and economic exchanges is a very important asset besides democracy. You have something to offer that we miss – well-skilled, well-trained, well-educated people young people.”
Touching on the four critical domains of cooperation outlined by India and the EU—transport, energy, digital world, and people-to-people ties—the former Prime Minister underscored the importance of educational exchanges. He proposed establishing an Erasmus-like program targeting Indian students and emphasized the need for mutual learning through cultural and academic collaborations. “The first stage of EU-India cooperation is to collaborate and connect to promote good incentives and learn about each other. The connectivity partnership has decided to boost the collective efforts between the EU and India with transport as the number one priority – with some added value to invest in infrastructural links for transporting energy goods and water. The second priority is setting up an ecosystem for energy consumption. We need a lot of innovation and investment to use the resources efficiently. The third is the digital domain. We must join forces in the digital world because the EU needs natural resources in free market competition. EU and India cooperation can promote Indian unicorns and build more competition in the digital world using cutting-edge technology. The fourth domain is person-to-person cooperation, which is the importance of education exchange and tourism. We are demanding well-educated, skilled people from good management schools in India. India and the EU should deepen their cooperation in geopolitical terms as well. Together, we need to resolve issues. We must resume free trade, investment protection, and agreement on geopolitical issues,” he said.
Outlining the political and economic interests of the EU to strengthen ties with India, the former Prime Minister urged for a diversified geopolitical landscape to ease tensions between major global players. “We need the workforce. We need sufficient brains in numbers to be competitive in that field. But I think that their EU-Indian good cooperation could be worth the effort in the future, to find out alternatives, to promote Indian unicorns and the breakthrough of Indian companies, to bring more competition in that field. The European Union is the major worldwide, the major regulatory power. In the field of the digital world, this means – cutting edge, performing on issues like protection of privacy, trying to find a good regulatory framework for artificial intelligence. I think that there we could join forces, that we maybe, should lower our level of regulation a little bit,” he said. He encouraged a focus on free trade and strengthening economic ties, emphasizing the need for more competition beyond dominant players like Amazon and Alibaba.
Speaking on the occasion, Vishal Khurma, CEO- Woxsen University said, “ The aging population in Europe poses significant challenges for their Corporates to find young talent with the right skill sets. As part of Strategic partnership with EU, India can solve the same by providing young talent adept at STEM disciplines. Universities like Woxsen can pave a new path for such mutual synergies by equipping our students with practical skills through advanced labs and innovative pedagogy in disruptive technologies like Artificial intelligence, data science, cyber security, deep learning etc. which are at the centrestage of innovation in tech space.”