Romania and India are coming together to forge new alliances and to culturally bond together with defence ties, arts and culture as well as cross border investments.
Romania Eyes to Deepen Ties with India
By ANCA VERMA
The freedom from the British rule, in 1947, gave a new lease of life to India, a life full of promises and healthy relations with like-minded nations around the world. Even as India welcomed everyone with open arms, its relations with a European nation, Romania, has only grown stronger with the passing time. Since 1948, when diplomatic relations were first established between both nations, there was no looking back. In this interview with NPM, H.E. Daniela Mariana Sezonov Tane, Ambassador of Romania, stresses on the different aspects of relations both the nations have enjoyed over the years and its future. Here are some excerpts from the interview.
Anca Verma/NPM: What is your take on the joint steps being taken by both India and Romania currently to enhance bilateral relations between two countries?
Ambassador Daniela Tane: Our bilateral relations have been historically very close. But, starting with March 8, 2013, "Romania and India have decided to establish an Extensive Partnership, with a view to leveraging their mutual strengths for each other’s common benefit and socio-economic development", said Ambassador of Romania. Such partnership reflects the enhanced cooperation in the fields of economy and trade, defense, culture, science & technology, higher education and research, civil nuclear energy, space and agriculture.
In the context of celebrating 70 years of diplomatic relations, the Vice-President of India, H.E. Venkaiah Naidu, paid a visit to Romania, in September 2018, followed by a visit of the Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs to India, in November 2018.
The pandemic prevented many physical visits in the past year and a half. Nevertheless, when there is a will there is a way, so the interactions at the Foreign Minister level did not miss in 2021. The Romanian Foreign Affairs Minister, Bogdan Aurescu, attended virtually the annual forum Raisina dialogue, on Tuesday, April 13, during the session with the theme "Reclaiming Europe: Navigating the Political Compass." The session focused on the internal and external challenges to Europe in the context dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic and other recent developments.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Bogdan Aurescu presented an analysis based on efforts at European level to combat the pandemic, focusing on coordinated actions such as centralized vaccine procurement and post-crisis economic recovery efforts, highlighting the need for effective use of the financial instruments made available to EU Member States.
Indian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, participated as chief guest, also through videoconference, at the Annual Reunion of Romanian Diplomacy. The theme was “Resilience in times of the pandemic. Strengthening cooperation amongst partners.” Both ministers underlined, in their interventions, the close bilateral ties, the excellent cooperation in multilateral fora, and the common vision shared on the main international issues. We have a thriving economic cooperation, with peak domains like IT, pharmaceutics, and metallurgical industry, and we are working to deepen our collaboration in the aerospatial field, defense industry, clean energy production, etc. For the next year, we hope to have the honor to host Meenakshi Lekhi, Minister of State for External Affairs.
NPM: As both countries face several challenges on account of the new wave of pandemic, they need to come together and strengthen trade and economic activities. What is your views on these issues?
Ambassador: The Romanian government took a series of measures meant to support, in the most efficient manner, the business community, focusing on Small and Medium Enterprises (SME), trying to limit losses and consolidate the local businesses.
The Ministry of Finance has implemented a multi-annual SME support program to reduce the effects of the spread of COVID-19 virus by guaranteeing loans, subsidizing interest on these loans, offering facilities for companies in financial difficulties, and extending the deadlines for applications meant to get restructuring of budget obligations and deadlines payment of local taxes due by the population. The Ministry of Finance has for time being suspended seizures for the population and SMEs that obtain an emergency certificate, and they will be able to postpone the payment of utilities and rents.
The Romanian government is convinced that through grants-combined with market competition, entrepreneurial initiatives will be encouraged in the economic sector and mainly in sectors with high added value, with export potential, which capitalizes on the innovation and research through product development and technological solutions. Moreover, a focus area for the state aid is the HORECA sector with microgrants and state aid schemes. This program stipulates that a nonrefundable aid of 2000 Euro will be given for the companies which comply with certain criteria set in the program.
As for bilateral economic cooperation in times of need, Romania emphasizes the importance of the next meeting of the Joint Economic Commission, which is deemed to take place next year, depending on the sanitary situation and the overall evolution of the pandemic. Within the framework of the existing trade and economic cooperation agreements, economic agents from both states can set joint ventures in their respective fields. Romania is especially interested in the added value of many Indian start-ups in the research and innovation field, and cyber or connectivity projects. On the other side, Romania can provide assistance for the Indian agricultural sector, transport technologies as well as participating in the green transition infrastructure projects.
NPM: Isn't it an opportune time for both countries to come closer and augment their existing health-care systems which are overwhelmed by COVID pandemic?
Ambassador: As already known, Romania contributed consistently to the overall European effort (Team Europe) in order to provide necessary medical assistance in times of need for India this spring.
If considered necessary, the respective Ministries of Health from our countries could envisage to conclude a Memorandum of Understanding that would detail their cooperation in various fields, as well as holding regular consultations or when considered necessary. The pandemic had proved how important is the cooperation at the highest level between the health authorities of various countries, helping to coordinate the answer at international level. We are just at the beginning of creating a more integrated international health cooperation, which is absolutely needed, if we want to be ready in face of future global health challenges.
NPM: There is a strong feeling that India and Romania should do more to increase their presence in the defense, trade, and commerce sectors for their mutual benefit. Kindly elucidate your views.
Ambassador: As I have already explained, there functions a Joint Economic Cooperation Commission between India and Romania that is competent to explore new avenues for trade and joint ventures in areas of mutual interest.
The cooperation in the defense sector will be boosted once the bilateral military agreement will be signed. We are in the final stage, waiting just for a high-level delegation either from Romania and India, or vice-versa, to sign it. Romania has a long tradition in the defense industry, and there are many opportunities opened currently.
Before my arrival in India, in March last year, the Indian Embassy in Bucharest in cooperation with the Romanian Embassy in India organized a first webinar for the defense industry, putting together more than 100 companies from both countries. This first virtual encounter will be followed by others. Hopefully, we will have a consistent Romanian participation at the DEFEXPO India in the month of February 2022.
NPM: Romania can emerge as one of the major tourist destinations for Indians, and this will boost the tourism industry there. But more needs to be done in this sector. Your comment!
Ambassador: Authentic, natural, and cultural are the words that best capture the essence of Romania, a dynamic country rich in history, arts, and scenic beauty.
Last summer, the Romanian tourism relied, mainly, on local tourism and tourists from neighboring countries or from the rest of Europe. In pandemic times, long-distance travel was rendered more difficult. With the vaccination rates increasing everywhere, we hope by next summer to come back to the previous number of tourists. The biggest number of foreign tourists in Romania, 2.79 million, was recorded in 2018. Romania offers a large variety of landscape, from seaside to the Danube Delta, rocky mountains and the last virgin forests in Europe, populated with wildlife like the brown bear, the wolves, and the Carpathian mountain goat to name just a few.
Romania has seven UNESCO world heritage sites: the medieval citadel of Sighisoara, the fortified churches from Transylvania, Horezu Monastery, the Dacian Fortresses from Orastie Mountains, the painted churches from Moldova, and the Wooden Churches from Maramures, along with the natural marvel which is Danube Delta.
The agrotourism, very popular among local as well as international tourists, will be probably the first to recover, since it does not involve as many costs as the big scale tourism. The Romanian seaside and mountain resorts recently registered a record number of local tourists, many Romanians avoiding traveling abroad due to the pandemic, but also aware of the need to support the local tourism, gravely affected by the pandemic. This gave the tourism sector the much-needed oxygen lifeline. We will see in the next couple of years, probably, how the tourism sector had emerged after the pandemic, what were the lessons learnt, and how will it improve the offer in order to attract more foreign tourists, including Indians, despite the huge losses during the past two years.
NPM: What is the percentage of COVID-vaccinated citizens in Romania?
Ambassador: On December 12, 2021, the number of vaccines administered was over 15 million; 40% of the population had been inoculated with both doses. The authorities are making constant efforts to increase this rate and aware people of the benefits a full vaccination.
NPM: Please shed light on the newly introduced system of ‘Green Pass’ (digital vaccination card) that allows Romanian citizens to move around freely and enter restaurants and enclosed public places in their country?
Ambassador: Under the current domestic regulations, the so-called green pass, which is a certificate attesting both doses of vaccination by citizens, allows the access of citizens in virtually all public and private buildings, including those in the sectors of education and health. The green pass is implemented also by the companies that operate in office buildings hosting over 50 employees simultaneously. Employees who fail to provide a green pass can be suspended from the post for 30 days and dismissed afterwards.
As a general rule, the green pass permits free entrance in shops, restaurants and at public events, especially where the rate of infection surpasses 3 for a thousand inhabitants.
Currently, the project of a bill regarding the imposition of the green pass is under parliamentary debate.
NPM: What is the status of the România India Defence Cooperation Pact that was due to be inked this year and how it will increase defence trade and cooperation between the two nations?
Ambassador: The draft of the agreement for cooperation in the field of defense is finalized, both parties awaiting for a convenient occasion to organize the signature ceremony. Due to the pandemic mainly, this event had to be postponed for the next year.
The joint cooperation in the field of defense industry will be further explored by our experts on the occasion of a ministerial encounter for the signature of the above mentioned agreement.
NPM: What are the cultural activities of the Romanian Embassy in India, and what impetus are you planning to provide to enhance cultural exchange between the two countries?
Ambassador: The Embassy of Romania in India could not organize life cultural events since the beginning of the pandemic. The first life event since 2019 was an exhibition of photography from Romania entitled “People and Places,” by Paul Sezonov, presented on the occasion of the National Day Reception, on December 1st at Lalit Hotel, New Delhi. The Embassy also took part in the European Film Festival, in the month of November, in virtual format, with the animation film “Marona’s Fantastic Tale” by the Romanian director Anca Damian. We intend to organize art exhibitions, a screening of the world-acclaimed documentary film “Untamed Romania,” and screenings of other feature movies among other activities. We hope the pandemic will finally recede, allowing the cultural life to thrive again.
I expect that, by early next year, we will sign the new bilateral Cultural Exchange Program, thus bringing back to Delhi a professor of Romanian language and literature for reopening the Romanian lectorate at the Delhi University, stopped in 2016, after 40 years of uninterrupted existence.
NPM: What is the significance of December 1st, the National Day of Romania?
Ambassador: In Romania, December 1st is more than the official beginning of winter. On this day, in 1918, all the Romanian historical provinces — Transylvania, Bessarabia, and Bukovina — were unified with the Old Romanian Kingdom (composed of Wallachia and Moldavia) under a unitary state.
On December 1st, 1918, the National Assembly of Romanians of Transylvania and Hungary met in Alba Iulia and decreed the unification of the territories inhabited by Romanians. Despite the fact that the official Union took place in 1918, December 1st was declared the National Day only after the Romanian Revolution of 1989, which put an end to the Ceausescu Regime. The first celebration took place in Alba Iulia.
NPM: What are your views about unique culture between these two great nations?
Ambassador: There are no doubts on the strong bonds connecting our cultures and societies, when we take a look back into Romania and India’s common past. Even long before the establishment of India’s independence, we developed very deep connections, through the interest manifested by some of our most remarkable intellectuals and artists.
Some deep Indian philosophical roots can be traced back into my country’s literature and art. The Romanian most revered poet, Mihai Eminescu, got inspired by the Vedas in some of the finest pieces of his philosophical poetry. Constantin Brancusi, pioneer of modern abstract sculpture, was commissioned by the Maharaja of Indore to raise a Temple of Meditation - the Temple of Love, as the artist interpreted it. Brancusi worked several years to create this temple, and in 1937, he came to India on the maharaja’s invitation. The latter’s death, however, prevented Brancusi from realizing the project. Moreover, Mircea Eliade—one of the most well-known scholars in the history of world religions —contributed in his early works to the introduction and explanation of the Indian yoga systems to the European mind. His comparative studies of the world religions made India’s ancient philosophies and religions known to the Romanian public and opened new gateways to the penetration of Indian culture in the West.
Nowadays, India is culturally present in Romania through a number of young intellectuals who are the best promoters of our cultural ties. Since 2008, in Bucharest, the Festival India Namaste is being organized, bringing to the Romanian public classical Indian dance and music, the richness of its textiles, various traditional products, food, books, yoga demonstrations, and so on. The festival grew, yearly, attracting more and more visitors and becoming a regular and much-awaited presence in the calendar of summer events in the Romanian capital city.