On December 14th, 1948, Romania and India established diplomatic relations. On the eve of the 70th anniversary of this occasion, the Romanian Institute for the Study of the Asia-Pacific (RISAP) and the Romanian Diplomatic Institute (Institutul Diplomatic Român – IDR), with the support of the Embassy of the Republic of India in Romania, organized the public conference “Celebrating 70 years of Romania-India diplomatic relations: A Historical Overview and Opportunities for the Future”. The conference took place at the headquarters of IDR, on December 13th, 2018.
The conference featured a panel of four speakers (in alphabetical order):
- Mr. Bhaskar Bhatt, Chargé d’affaires ad interim and First Secretary, Embassy of the Republic of India in Romania;
- Mr. Alexandru Irimia, Minister plenipotentiary, Asia-Pacific Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania;
- Mr. Vijay Palamadai, Country Head of Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Romania;
- Mr. Simion-Adrian Purza, State Councillor, representative of Mrs. Ana Birchall, Vice Prime Minister for the implementation of Romania’s strategic partnerships and President of the Parliamentary group for friendship with India;
The conference was moderated by Andrei Lungu, President of RISAP and took place between 10:00 and 12:15. The audience included foreign Ambassadors and diplomats, Romanian diplomats and officials, business representatives, members of the Indian diaspora in Romania, professors and experts, students and members of the general public passionate about India and Indian culture.
The conference was opened with a speech by the moderator. Mr. Andrei Lungu presented an overview of Romania-India relations, highlighting the cultural ties between the two peoples, that already existed at the time of the establishment of diplomatic relations, in 1948. Mihai Eminescu, who translated a book about Sanskrit grammar, Mircea Eliade, who lived and studied in India, writing the popular novel Maitreyi, or Constantin Brâncuși, who was commissioned to build a temple in India (a project that did not get off the ground) are just some of the most important Romanian intellectuals who were influenced or had contacts with India. The great Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore, visited Romania in 1926, welcomed by crows of thousands, and received an honorary PhD from the University of Bucharest. Romania-India political ties were strengthened after 1948 by numerous presidential, prime-ministerial, ministerial or parliamentary visits, the most recent ones being the September visit to Romania of Mr. Venkaiah Naidu, Vice President of India and the November visit to India of Mr. Teodor Meleșcanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania. Indian companies in Romania employ over 10.000 people and are mostly active in the pharmaceutical sector, in business process outsourcing and industry. A Romanian company, Rulmenți Bârlad, built and operates a ball-bearings factory in the state of Rajasthan, India. On top of political and economic relations, cultural and people-to-people ties are also strong. The Hindi department at the University of Bucharest will soon celebrate 50 years of activity and Romanians are great fans of Indian culture, Bollywood movies and yoga. Mr. Lungu concluded his speech with the belief that, as India will become a world power, Romania-India relations have a bright future ahead.
Mr. Bhaskar Bhatt, Chargé d’affaires ad interim of the Embassy of the Republic of India in Romania stressed the triple significance of the occasion: 70 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations, 5 years since the signing of the extended partnership between Romania and India and 100 years since the founding of the modern state of Romania, in 1918. Mr. Bhatt praised the historically-strong cultural relations between Romania and India, which were the foundation of the current bilateral relations. Regarding economic relations, he indicated that, according to Indian figures, bilateral trade stands at $800 million, while over 400 Indian companies are present in Romania. Mr. Bhatt also talked about the Romanian presidency of the Council of the European Union, in the first half of 2019, a time during which India hopes that negotiations for a Bilateral Investment Treaty between India and the EU could be completed. Talking about opportunities for Romanian companies in India, he presented the numerous initiatives of the current government, such as Make in India, Digital India, Clean India, also underlining the country’s high growth rate and its new nationwide goods and services tax, which simplifies fiscal bureaucracy.
The next speaker was Mr. Simion-Adrian Purza, State Councillor, who delivered the remarks prepared by Mrs. Ana Birchall, Vice Prime-minister of Romania and President of the Parliamentary group for friendship with India. Mr. Purza praised the visit of Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, with a threefold significance: the governmental, parliamentary and business side. He also praised the state of bilateral relations, which are guided by the extended partnership the two sides signed in 2013. Referring to the Joint Economic Commission between India and Romania, which had its most recent meeting in 2017, after a five-year break, Mr. Purza expressed the hope that economic interactions will intensify, especially if a direct flight between Bucharest and New Delhi would be reestablished. As Romania is preparing to take over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, starting on January 1st, 2019, he also indicated the need for a EU global strategy, in which India would play a key part. The EU and India are in the process of negotiating a free trade agreement and Romania is a supporter of the early conclusion of these negotiations.
Mr. Alexandru Irimia, Minister Plenipotentiary at the Asia-Pacific Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania, was the next speaker to take the floor. He began his speech with a look back through history: even if India was far away and mysterious for Romanians in the 19th century, there were intellectual figures who were captivated by this different nation and culture. Mr. Irimia analyzed bilateral relations on five levels: political dialogue, the legal and strategic framework, the economic interactions, culture and people-to-people ties. The political dialogue is healthy, with constant consultations through the ministries of foreign affairs, while the legal framework is providing a strong underpinning. The extended partnership includes fields such as cooperation on nuclear energy and space research, proof to its multifaceted nature. The potential for cooperation between Romania and India is even greater. Recalling that some in India refer to Romanians as the Indians of Europe, Mr. Irimia highlighted the opportunities for cooperation in the IT sector. He also addressed aspects regarding connectivity between Europe and Asia, both Romania and India being well positioned to contribute to strengthening this connectivity.
The next speaker was Mr. Vijai Palamadai, Country Head of Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Romania, one of the most important Indian companies present in our country. Mr. Palamadai had a lively speech, interwoven with personal stories. He started by asking the participants about the name recognition of Dr. Reddy’s and Omez, in order to emphasize the drug’s role as the company’s ambassador, being widely used throughout Romania. Mr. Palamadai then moved towards his experience as an Indian businessman living in Romania for more than 7 years, being impressed by the knowledge many Romanians have about India, sometimes in detail. He narrated how his young daughter is learning tradition Indian dances from a Romanian teacher, stressing that people are the ones who hold the relations. Mr. Palamadai then focused on economic relations and Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, which is active in Romania for 22 years and has steadily grown its business. More importantly, it has also played a role in offering affordable medicine to Romanians, working with the Ministry of Health and helping bring down its expenditures. The pharmaceutical industry is a natural sector for strong Romania-India cooperation. Mr. Palamadai expressed hope for Romania’s ascension to the Schengen Area and the resumption of direct flights between Romania and India, which would help the development of economic relations, ending his speech by praising Romania as one of the most beautiful countries, which could attract even more Indian tourists.
After the panel session, the moderator opened the floor for debate, with numerous questions and comments from the audience. The first questions, from Mr. Silviu Petre, a researcher and professor, focused on the difficulties in negotiating the free trade agreement (FTA) between the UE and India and on the potential for Romania-India cooperation on nuclear energy. Mr. Bhatt pointed to the fact that there are some issues that block the conclusion of negotiations, but expressing the hope that the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU will accelerate these negotiations. Mr. Purza also supported the view that a deal is possible, offering public procurement as an example of one issue delaying negotiations. Mr. Irimia stressed that such deals are difficult to negotiate because, unlike the 1980s or 1990s, they now involve far more fields outside simple tariffs, thus complicating and lengthening the process, as there are hundred of pages and articles to draft. Regarding cooperation on nuclear energy, Mr. Irimia provided the example of Indian experts visiting and cooperating on the project at Măgurele, but cautioned that cooperation in nuclear energy investments is a long way off.
Mrs. Monica Șincai, a researcher at the Institute for the World Economy of the Romanian Academy, offered a series of proposals for strengthening bilateral relations, such as the need for the Joint Economic Commission to meet at least once every two years, while the working groups on different issues should themselves meet just as often. The number of working groups should increase to cover more fields and the current memoranda of understanding need to be better implemented. Bilateral agreements between different institutions, such as the Romanian Academy and an Indian counterpart, would help strengthen ties.
Mr. Adrian Pop, professor at the National University of Political Science and Public Administration (NUPSPA), emphasized the current chaotic state of international relations and global governance, asking what role could India and the European Union play in strengthening global governance. The speakers focused on the role of the United Nations and India and Romania’s involvement in the UN framework. Mr. Bhatt mentioned that India is working hard and is interested in obtaining a permanent seat on the Security Council, while Mr. Purza also indicated that the current P5 system should be enlarged and Mr. Irimia pointed out that the shift of power from West to East will enrich global governance.
Ms. Andreea Leonte, Fellow at RISAP, asked Mr. Palamadai whether Dr. Reddy’s produces any of its drugs in Romania or if it has any plans to open a factory in our country, considering its membership of the European Union, its lower labor costs and its highly-skilled workforce. Mr Palamadai enumerated the countries of origin of Dr. Reddy’s products, ranging from India, to Germany, Spain or Russia. While Dr. Reddy’s has no Romanian factory, it is exploring the possibility of opening a factory in our country. Mr. Palamadai pointed out that Dr Reddy’s was interested in acquiring Terapia Cluj, which was eventually acquired by a different Indian company. Mr. Palamadai praised Romania, stating that it offers the growth of an emerging market with the stability of an EU economy.
Other questions included the ways India is interacting with the Romani community or the ways in which Indians in Romania and Romanians in India can contribute to the development of bilateral relations. The conference ended with a question and a debate regarding the issue of Romanian visas for Indian tourists, an issue highlighted by Mrs. Cecilia Enache, director of a travel company focusing on the Indian market. Indian nationals have to wait up to 90 days before receiving approval from the Ministry of Interior of Romania, before they can apply for a visa, a process that takes longer than other EU countries. The conference ended with the hope that the visa regime could be simplified, so that Romania can increase the number of Indian tourists and businesspeople traveling to our country.
The conference was followed by a cocktail that included samosas, Indian sweets and Indian tea, provided with the support of the Embassy of the Republic of India in Romania, which were greatly appreciated by the participants. More photos from the conference are available on RISAP’s Facebook page.
As Romania and India have celebrated 70 years since the establishment of bilateral relations, ties are growing stronger and there are many avenues for future cooperation, from education and tourism, to IT and connectivity. In the framework of EU-India relations, thanks to its holding of the Presidency of the Council of the EU, Romania has an important role to play. At the end of this celebratory year, both sides are looking forward to developing bilateral ties, which are based on a long and rich history.