Speech by the Minister of Foreign Affairs at the annual meeting of Romanian diplomacy
Excellency Minister of Foreign Affairs Aurescu,
colleagues from the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the diplomatic corps.
It is a great pleasure to address this annual gathering of Romanian diplomacy. Mr. Foreign Minister, it was a pleasure to see you in Bled last week. We were unable to reserve time, but it was good of you to be present at the meeting of foreign ministers in Gymnich. And you remember, we had a good discussion over there on Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific and I’m sure we’ll probably come back to some of those topics today.
Before going further. I really want to express my thanks for the gestures of solidarity and support you gave us during the second wave of our Covid pandemic. It was very, very difficult times and for us it was a source of great moral support to know that friends all over the world were supporting us. Now, the focus on resilience in times of pandemic is certainly a very appropriate theme for your deliberations, especially if we are dealing with resilience, not just as a physical attribute, but in fact, as an approach to international relations. As Indian Minister of Foreign Affairs, my remarks naturally focus on how India is and will be relevant to your thinking at this time. Part of this stems directly from our cooperation with Romania. As also with the European Union of which you are part. Part of it may also be how you would assess India’s growing importance in world affairs as a whole, but one should not forget the impact India is having on the major global issues of our time. . Questions which would obviously also affect the well-being of Romania. Taken together, I think they make it clear why we need to pay more attention to our relationship. So let’s start with the Indo-Romanian ties.
Politically, Minister, I am, I am sure you will agree that they are excellent. They are very well served by a framework of agreements and mechanisms, which is very typical of such cases. We have seen high-level visits such as those of our Vice President in 2018 and your President a decade earlier. Your predecessor as Minister of Foreign Affairs visited India in 2018 and our Minister of State was in Bucharest a few years before. The 18th meeting of our Joint Economic Commission met in 2017. So you can see that there has been regular contact, but I’m sure we can do better. And certainly, Minister, I welcome you to India and I will see, as the travel restrictions ease, if there is an opportunity for me to come this early. Now, regarding the trade, we reached US $ 810 million turnover in 2017-18. We went down a bit after that. But, of course, the past year or two has been tough because of Covid. The shopping basket is largely made up of machinery and equipment, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, metallurgy, medical equipment and vehicles. Our companies have invested in each other’s economy. And certainly on the Indian side, I can tell you that some of our big names in steel, IT, pharma, are present in Romania. Cultural cooperation also has a long history and we see how enthusiastically yoga is celebrated in Romania every year. The Indian community of around 10,000 people which includes students is an important link between us. And obviously, we are striving to further develop this relationship and I want to share with you that there is a particularly strong emphasis on its economic side.
Now, it is also important to understand that Romania would benefit significantly from India’s expanding cooperation with the European Union. Many of you know that there was a historic summit last May between our Prime Minister and the leaders of the EU27 in Portugal. One of its important results is the resumption of our FTA negotiations which have stalled since 2013 since the days of the previous government. Not only has there already been progress in this regard and in fact official talks begin this month. We also agreed to quickly conclude an investment agreement and another on geographic indicators. The India-EU connectivity partnership is also important for its bilateral implications, quality connotations and third country possibilities.
The strategic convergence between India and the EU is reflected in our positions on key regional and global issues, including I should add, on Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific. I am sure that this will be duly noted by the Romanian diplomats. Between our national and European commitments, there is every reason to be optimistic about the continuation of our cooperation.
One of the reasons why this is essential from a Romanian perspective is the likelihood that India will play a more visible role in world politics in the days to come. India’s economic weight has already grown considerably, as has its political influence. We are now members of the G20. Currently, we are a non-permanent member of the Security Council, EAS, BRICS, SCO, QUAD, SAARC, BIMSTEC, IORA. So there is a long list out there. In our own neighborhood, the Quartier policy first implemented since 2014 has strengthened connectivity, contacts and commerce. India’s growth is a tide that lifts the region in its quest for prosperity. Towards South East Asia and beyond, the “Act East” policy added security, connectivity in a wider societal context to a strong economic partnership. This has now developed into what has become an Indo-Pacific vision that views opportunities in a much more transparent way. To the west, a link-west perspective has indeed transformed our ties with the Gulf states and shaped a strategic construct that goes beyond energy, trade and the diaspora. In the south, the “SAGAR maritime initiative” has adopted an integrated vision of cooperation with various islands and riparian states, with Africa an ambitious development partnership and a larger footprint. In fact, all of our new embassies that we have opened in Africa have given a new dimension to a traditional relationship.
India’s engagement today extends through established mechanisms from the Pacific Islands in the east to the Caribbean in the west. However, these developments may concern specific regions and theaters, but together they imply something much greater for the international order. The re-emergence of a civilizational state like India brings about a significant rebalancing of world affairs.
Obviously this phenomenon has other aspects such as the rise of China, the growth of ASEAN etc., but this rebalancing is now sufficiently advanced to create a more multipolar world architecture. In such a world, the challenge for diplomacy is to navigate the different poles and arrive at an optimal positioning. By its very nature, this is a dynamic and indeed lifelong exercise. The bottom line for those in our profession is that the emerging order really calls for a new kind of foreign policy. The other undeniable reality of our time is of course the growth of globalization. Covering virtually all areas of human endeavor, it has led to a kind of interpenetration and interdependence that could not have been imagined earlier. Equally important, it was in fact a constraining factor on competition and encouraged new forms of power and influence. On one level. It has reinforced the indivisibility of some challenges like climate terrorism and pandemics, but on the other hand, it has sparked a debate on the optimality of globalization.
The Covid-19 pandemic has clearly sensitized all nations of the world to external risks and vulnerabilities. He raised questions about the centralized aspects of globalization, the debate I spoke of, and stressed the importance of trust and transparency. Many states have thus defined their national security and strategic autonomy more broadly. One issue that has strongly emerged on the global agenda is the need for resilient and reliable supply chains. This is in part an objective requirement summarized from the behavior of States. But together there is today a broader appreciation of the importance of global cooperation, especially among states that share values and play by the rules.
So let me say that India and Romania, we have significant convergence in our view of the world and its contemporary challenges. Our cooperation also has a greater beneficial impact. I am very grateful for the opportunity today to share some of our thoughts with you and I will be happy to move this conversation forward in the time that remains.
September 08, 2021