Thank you, New Delhi
Excellency Foreign Minister Aurescu,
colleagues in the Romanian Foreign Ministry and the Diplomatic Corps.
It's a great pleasure to address this annual gathering of Romanian diplomacy. Foreign Minister it was good to see you at Bled last week. We couldn't set aside time, but it was good of you to be there at the Foreign Ministers Meeting, the Gymnich Meeting. And you remember, we had a good discussion there on Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific and I'm sure we will probably revisit some of those topics today.
Before I proceed further. I want to really express, my thanks for the gestures of solidarity and support that you gave us during the second wave of our Covid pandemic. Those were very very tough times and for us it was a source of great moral support to know that friends across the world stood by us. Now, the focus on resilience in times of pandemic is certainly a very appropriate theme for your deliberations, particularly if we treat resilience, not just as a physical attribute, but actually, as an approach to international relations. As the Indian Foreign Minister, my remarks naturally address, how India is and will be relevant to your thinking at this time. Some of that arises directly from our cooperation with Romania. As also with the European Union of which you are a part. Part of it may also stem from how you would evaluate the growing salience of India in world affairs as a whole, but not least there is the impact that India has on major global issues of our times. Matters that would obviously impinge on Romania's well-being as well. Taken together, I believe they make a strong case on why we need to pay more and continued attention to our relationship. So let's start with India-Romania ties.
At the political level, Minister, I am, sure you would agree they are excellent. They are very well serviced 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 by your President, a decade earlier. Your predecessor as Foreign Minister travelled to India in 2018 and our Minister of State was in Bucharest, some years before that. The 18th meeting of our Joint Economic Commission met in 2017. So you can see that there's been regular contacts, but I'm sure we can do better. And certainly Minister, I would welcome you in India and I will see as the travel restrictions ease up, whether there's an early opportunity for me to come as well. Now, where trade is concerned, we hit a high of US Dollars 810 Million turnover in 2017-18. We've come down a bit after that. But, of course, the last year or two years have been tough because of Covid. The trade basket is largely composed of machinery and equipment, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, metallurgy, medical equipment and vehicles. Our companies have invested in each other's economy. And certainly from the Indian side, I can tell you that some of our big names in steel, in IT, in pharma, they are present in Romania. Cultural cooperation also has a long history and we note how enthusiastically yoga is celebrated every year in Romania. Indian Community of about 10,000 which includes students are an important link between us. And obviously, it is our endeavor to grow this relationship further and I want to share with you that there is a particularly strong focus on its economic side.
Now, it's also important to appreciate that Romania would benefit significantly from the expansion of India's cooperation with the European Union. Many of you would be aware that there was a landmark summit this May between our Prime Minister and the EU 27 leaders in Portugal. One of its important outcomes is the resumption of our FTA negotiations that have stalled from 2013 from the time of the previous government. Not just that there has been already some progress in that regard and actually the formal talks start this month. We have also agreed to conclude early an investment agreement, and one on geographical indicators. The India-EU connectivity partnership is also important for its bilateral implications, its quality connotations and its third country possibilities.
The Strategic convergence between India and the EU is reflected in our positions on key regional and global issues, including I must add, on Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific. I'm sure that this will be duly noted by Romanian diplomats. Between our National and EU engagements, there is every reason to be optimistic about our continued cooperation.
One reason why it is essential from the Romanian perspective is the likelihood that India will play a more visible role in global politics in the days to come. India's economic weight has already grown substantially, as indeed has its political influence. We are today, members of the G20. Currently, we are a non-permanent member of the Security Council, of the EAS, of BRICS, of SCO, QUAD, SAARC, BIMSTEC, IORA . So there's a long list out there. In our own vicinity, the Neighborhood- first policy pursued since 2014 has strengthened connectivity, contacts, and commerce. India's growth is a tide lifting the larger region in the quest for prosperity. Towards South East Asia and beyond, the 'Act East' policy has added security, connectivity in greater societal context to a robust economic partnership. This has now further developed into what has become known as an Indo-Pacific Vision that contemplates opportunities much more seamlessly. To the west, a link-West outlook has actually transformed our ties with the Gulf States and fashioned a strategic construct that goes beyond energy, trade and the diaspora. To the South, the 'SAGAR Maritime initiative' has taken an integrated view of cooperation with various islands, and littoral states, with Africa an ambitious, development partnership and a larger footprint. In fact, all our new embassies we have opened in Africa, has given a traditional relationship a new scale.
India's engagement today, extends through established mechanisms from the Pacific Islands on our East, to the Caribbean on our West. Now these developments may pertain to specific regions and theaters, but together they connote something much larger for the international order. The re-emergence of a civilizational state like India drives the rebalancing of world affairs in a significant manner.
Obviously that phenomenon has other aspects such as the rise of China, the growth of ASEAN etc., but this rebalancing is today sufficiently advanced to create a more multipolar global architecture. In such a world, the challenge that diplomacy faces is to navigate the different poles and arrive at an optimal positioning. By its very nature, that is a dynamic and actually a perpetual exercise. The takeaway, for those in our profession is that the emerging order really calls for a new type of foreign policy. The other undeniable reality of our times is of course the growth of globalization. Spanning virtually all the domains of human activity, it has led to interpenetration and interdependence of a kind that could not have been imagined earlier. Equally important this has been actually a constraining factor on competition and has encouraged new forms of power and influence. At one level. It has strengthened the indivisibility of certain challenges like climate change terrorism and pandemics, but on the other hand, it has stirred a debate on the optimal nature of globalization.
The Covid-19 pandemic has clearly made all nations of the world much more aware of external risks and vulnerabilities. It has raised questions about the centralized aspects of globalization, the debate I spoke about, and highlighted the importance of trust and transparency. Many states have defined their national security and strategic autonomy in a more expansive manner as a result. An issue that has emerged strongly on the global agenda, is the requirement for resilient and reliable supply chains. Some of this is an objective demand summarized from the behavior of States. But together there is a wider appreciation today of the importance of global cooperation, particularly among states who share values and respect rules.
So let me say that India and Romania, we have a significant convergence in our outlook of the world and of its contemporary challenges. Our cooperation has a larger beneficial impact as well. I am very appreciative of the opportunity today to share some of our thinking with you and I'll be delighted to take this conversation forward in the time which is left.
September 08, 2021