Bilateral trade is on an all-time high

Updated: Sep 30 2007, 07:42am hrs
Indian and Romanian relations can be traced back several centuries. Transylvania born philologist, Alexander Csoma de Kors travelled to India in 1820 and spent many years in Calcutta. Romanias national poet Mihai Eminescu even translated a book on Sanskrit grammar into Romanian. Eminent Romanian philosophers and poets like Bogdan Hasdeu, George Cosbuc, and Lucian Blaga were deeply influenced by Indian thought. The Romanian ambassador Vasile Sofineti, an avid cricket and Vaastu follower, shares this and more with Huma Siddiqui.

The $1bn target

Our bilateral cooperation is on an all-time high. Last year Romanias investment in India touched the half billion mark. The first half of this year has already grossed $370 m. If the trend continues we will be able to achieve the $1 bn target set by the Romanian president on his India visit last year, well before 2010. India has also invested close to $2 bn there. Romania has been involved in major Indian projects...the oil refinery in Guwahati, the thermal power plant at Singareni, the Mangalore pelletising plant and even the Durgapur agglomeration plant.

On the other hand, Ranbaxy has invested in Romania... the Lohias are setting up a $100 m Greenfield Investment in PET packaging at Constanta port, Arcelor-Mittal has just entered the real estate market in Bucharest, Diwarkar Singh, president of Indian Business Association is planning an investment of $300 m in building 300 villas, Subex Systems and L&T Infotech Ltd are implementing telecom software orders from Connex. In fact, GHCL Limited recently acquired a majority stake in SC Bega Upsom SA, a leading soda ash manufacturer in Romania. Wipro recently announced a $250 m investment for setting up a near-shoring facility. During my recent visit to Bucharest, I was proud to see Tata Motors pick-up cars dotting the roads. Mahindra & Mahindras may soon takeover a tractor factory in Romania. They are already producing the Logan.

Of cricket and gymnastics

If the partnership between the Romanian and Indian airlines materialises, very soon therell be direct flights to Bucharest and other Romanian destinations. We are trying hard to promote Romania as a tourist destination. I am also keen on promoting sporting ties between the two countries. You may be surprised to know that there are a number of cricket clubs in Romania. I am trying to get Mittal-Arcelor group, the main sponsors of the Romanian football team to sponsor a cricket match there. I want to bring Romanian trainers here for the Indian gymnastics team. It would be really great if we could set up a gym school here dedicated to Nadia Comaneci. She is very fond of India and is expected to visit Mumbai shortly.

Culture cauldron

Next week, on the 100th anniversary of Mircea Eliade historian, writer, and one of the pre-eminent interpreters of world religion in this century we are organising a seminar along with Jawaharlal Nehru University.

In November we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of sculptor Constantin Brancusi with exhibitions in India. His works were inspired by Indian motifs. Ryan Foundation is organising its annual festival with a Comic Opera and we are looking forward to being a part of it. Indias active cultural life could make it all possible. You may be surprised to know that the Romanian TV channel airs Indian films once a week. Raj Kapoor is a hit there. So are Amitabh Bachchan and Salman Khan. Kyon Ki, starring Sanjay Dutt and Salman Khan was recently shot there. I hope someday we will have Amitabh Bachchan shooting there too.

Future beckons

Considering that India is in vogue in Romania, we are soon planning a cultural week there. A similar event in India, with wine tasting sessions, cheese and salamis is also in the offing. Plans are afoot to set up a India House there and a Romania house in New Delhi to promote the cultures. There is a proposal to establish Dialogue of Civilisations, a theme park, in Bucharest. A memorial of Mahatma Gandhi will be installed there. I have had the privilege to translate Ignited Minds: Unleashing the Power Within India authored by former president APJ Abdul Kalam into Romanian. It will soon be released. The illustrations are done by one of Kolkatas well-known artist, Dipto Chatterjee.