Born in Bucharest, Radu Dobre, Romanian Ambassador to India, started his career as a journalist in 1990 and specialised in international relations. During his stint as a journalist, Dobre, a political science graduate, published a large number of articles on international relations for major newspapers.
In 2002, Dobre joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and worked in different positions, including as Diplomat-in-Charge of EU affairs at the Romanian Embassy in Athens. In October 2016, he joined as Ambassador of Romania to India.
In an email interview with Rakesh Kumar, the ambassador spoke about diplomatic, cultural, economic and defence ties with India.
How do India and Romania propose to celebrate 70 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations?
We just had the visit to Romania of the Indian Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu and, for the following period, we expect the visit of the Romanian Vice-Prime Minister to India, followed by the Romanian minister for business environment, trade and entrepreneurship. Romania will also host the 19th session of the Joint Economic Committee Romania-India, in November, in Bucharest. We are increasing our presence in India by inaugurating a new Honorary Consulate in Chennai, which will contribute to expand relations with that region, in the economic, political, social and cultural fields. We are building a cultural programme to be shown in both India and Romania.
How do you look at India-Romania relations in different fields, particularly economic and commercial ties?
Bilateral relations in the field of economics are expanding at an excellent rate. During the last four years, the volume of the commercial exchanges almost doubled to reach almost 800 million USD, in 2017. The trend is positive and continues to appreciate this year too. If the trend is maintained, I’m very optimistic that next year we can reach the $1 billion mark in our commercial exchanges. The goods that are the subject of trade between the two countries are diverse and range from agro-food products to machineries and automotive components, chemicals, and mineral oil.
We have also achieved very good results from reciprocal investments. Romania is open for business and Indian companies have realised that in order to tackle the European market, the right step is to open an office or representation in Romania. Romania welcomes all forms of foreign investment and the government provides equal treatment for all foreign investors. My country’s strategic location, the membership to the European Union (EU), well-educated workforce, competitive wages and abundant natural resources make it a desirable location for firms seeking to access European, Central Asian and Near East markets.
Romania has made extraordinary progress in the past quarter century. After the transition from communism, the country carried out a set of important reforms to join the European Union and it has been rewarded with strong and inclusive growth, declining poverty, rising living standards and rapid convergence toward EU income levels.
Romania has the best performance in EU in terms of GDP growth. The economy grew by seven per cent in the entire year of 2017, compared with the previous year, according to Eurostat.
There are success stories of Indian companies in Romania. The main sectors where companies from India are more interested to do business in Romania are: IT& C, Pharma, Agriculture, Tourism and Spa.
Do India and Romania have any defence relationship?
Romania and India have traditional relations in the fields of defence and defence industry. We are at a stage when we are discussing how we can bring this co-operation to a new level. We appreciate the contribution of India to the preservation of international peace and security and we are ready to cooperate also where our military forces are present together.
In this context, it is worth mentioning that Romania is engaged in the international effort for combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. In our view, there is no justification for terrorism acts. On the other hand, Romania is among the top five contributors with military forces in Afghanistan, playing an important role for the stabilisation of that country. In addition, Romania has the knowledge and capacity to cooperate with India for the development of new defence technologies and has the technological capacity to meet some of the needs of the Indian military forces in terms of armament, ammunition and military equipment.
Does Romania support India’s candidature for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council?
It is a commonly known fact that Romania supports India’s candidature for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. As a country, we are very active regarding the debate on the reform of the UNSC.
What steps are being taken by the two countries to promote people-to-people contacts?
Romania has traditional links with India, even before India’s independence. I remind you that Rabindranath Tagore visited Romania in 1924 and he was awarded the title of Doctor Honoris Causa of the University of Bucharest. Also, around the same period, one of the most famous Romanian Writers and Philosophers, Mircea Eliade, followed courses of Sanskrit at the University of Calcutta. After the Second World War, there were many cultural bilateral exchanges. Courses of Romanian and Hindi were organised, until recently, in Delhi University and the University of Bucharest respectively. In Romania, there are Bollywood channels running 24 hours a day on cable TV and the bilateral cooperation in film and advertisements productions is expanding.
Romania is becoming a significant destination for Indian tourists. When I arrived in India, in 2013, the consular section of my Embassy was issuing around 1,200 visas per year. Statistically, in 2017, the number of Indian citizens visiting Romania was over 15,000 and there is a good prospect for growth. In addition, more than 10,000 Romanian citizens are visiting, each year, India, which is becoming one of the most preferred destinations in Asia. Today, a priority for us is to connect the two business communities.
Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu just concluded a visit to Romania. What are the significant takeaways from the visit?
We consider the visit of the Honourable Vice-President of India as a big success. The visit was organised keeping in mind not only the celebration of 70 years of diplomatic bilateral relations but also the celebration of five years from the signature, at the level of ministers of foreign affairs, of the Declaration for an Extended Partnership. It was an excellent occasion to reiterate the fact that both countries share common values and objectives. The Indian delegation had talks with all the important leaders, including Klaus Werner Iohannis, the President of Romania. During the talks, we have underlined some priority areas of interest for both sides, in the fields of the political dialogue and economic and commercial cooperation.
The visit was also a good opportunity to sign various MoUs. At the government level, the signing of the MoU for cooperation in the field of tourism is very important, along with the entry into force of the amendments to the bilateral Civil Aviation Agreement. During the Business Forum, the Bucharest Chamber of Commerce and Industries signed MoUs with CII, Assocham and PHD Chamber of Commerce. Finally, yet importantly, the Oil and Gas University of Ploiesti signed an MoU with the similar University of Gandhinagar.