Appointed honorary consul of Romania in 2019, Bajaj has been working rigorously to start a formal dialogue between the officials of Romania and Nepal.
Last year, there was a backlog of Nepali workers applying for Romanian visas due to the COVID pandemic. Narayan Bajaj, the honourary consul of Romania to Nepal, requested Romanian officials to open a temporary visa office in Nepal to facilitate Nepalis applying for work permits. As requested, Romania sent a team of six visa officers to Kathmandu. The backlog of about 5,000 applications got cleared in just two months. This was a successful example of bilateral exchange between Nepal Romania.
We were happy to facilitate Nepalis workers, and the Romanian government too was appreciative of the kind of role we created with support on the logistic end and exchanging dialogue with our central bank, our labour ministry, and labour department, shares Bajaj.
Nepal formally established diplomatic ties with Romania on April 20, 1968. The relationship is based on friendship, mutual respect and understanding. Contacts between the two countries primarily take place in international forums such as the United Nations. At the bilateral level, interactions happen during courtesy meetings held with the government heads during the credential ceremonies of the ambassadors.
Currently, the Embassy of Nepal in Berlin, Germany, is accredited to Romania, whereas, the Embassy of Romania in New Delhi, India, looks after the affairs in Nepal. Likewise, both countries have appointed honorary consuls to facilitate bilateral and economic exchanges.
“To be frank, there is no strong relationship at present,” Bajaj said. He, however, added that there is a growing interest in both countries. A lot of Nepali workers have started going to Romania. In the last two years, there has been a jump in the number of Nepalis going to Romania. As Romania is a member of the European Union, there is a very high level of labour protection acts, and the salaries too are good as per the new standard.
“They get a minimum salary which goes according to their qualifications and the nature of their work. So, this is now the mutual area where Romania needs manpower, and the country is open to Nepali workers. However, there was no formal way of relation earlier,” Bajaj shared.
Bajaj was appointed the Honorary Consulate of Romania in Nepal in 2019. Since his appointment, he has been working rigorously to make the bilateral relations more dynamic.
Right after his appointment, Bajaj initiated dialogue between the Nepali government and the Romanian Embassy in New Delhi to identify ways to further his relationship. He started the process of exchanging bilateral consultation agreements which were not in place despite so many years of diplomatic relations.
“The consultation document has already been prepared. It only remains to be approved by both governments. Nepali officials will now have to travel to Romania to sign it,” added Bajaj.
Foreign Secretary Bharat Raj Poudyal is scheduled to visit Romania in October to sign the bilateral consultation agreement. But he could not travel because of the election of the House of Representatives and province assemblies. It is now scheduled to be done in 2023. The agreement will open the doors for formal dialogue between the two countries in different areas of interest.
At the moment, there are no big trade exchanges between Romania and Nepal. Data shows that some of the industrial machinery spare parts and other things are being imported from Romania. Nepal’s exports to Romania stand very low. In 2018, Nepal imported goods worth Rs 1.01 million, while it exported stuff worth Rs 162,185 to Romania. Similarly, Nepal exported handicraft products worth Rs 72,591 to Romania in 2019 while importing goods worth Rs 1.17 million.
“The trade is negligible at the moment because our exporters mainly focus on major European countries like Germany, France, Spain, and Italy. However, the focus on the areas should be on bigger opportunities. It lies in Eastern Europe,” added Bajaj.
,” he added.
The lack of initiative from both sides has been observed as a major hindrance to economic relations. Though both Nepal and Romania are smaller markets, both sides have to look at the potentials.
Since his appointment as the Honorary Consul of Romania in Nepal, Bajaj has been looking at the promotion of Romania’s interests in Nepal. Being a Nepali, however, he also looks at Nepali interests in Romania. “As a Romanian representative in Nepal, I have been helping Romanian businesses that want information about Nepal. This is what I am supposed to do,” he said, adding: “The Nepali consulate in Romania will have to do the same for Nepal.”
Talking about the business opportunity, Bajaj sees a good opportunity in the education field in Romania. According to Bajaj, Romania has very good universities with a history of 200-300 years. The tuition fee in Romania is very low. Romanian universities are good for medical education.
“I have seen many students going to Ukraine to study medicine. Many people don’t know that the teaching medium in Romania is English and the tuition fee is much lower compared to Nepal,” he added. Since Romanian degrees are recognised by the EU, they are universally acceptable.
“They are very strong in engineering, IT and business courses. So that is one of the areas where we can have some kind of relationship like student exchange between universities,” said Bajaj.
Bajaj has facilitated some of the faculties of TU to travel to Romania on a short exchange programme.
Likewise, tourism is the other aspect that can connect the nations. Romanians like mountains and adventure activities. Bajaj thinks that Nepal can get a lot of Romanian tourists if the destination is properly promoted in Eastern Europe.
“This is again one area where I see the focus of the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) missing. They need to focus on this potential market,” he suggested.
According to Bajaj, hydropower can be one of the areas for collaboration between private sectors of the two countries. Romania produces industrial equipment for the hydropower sector. Bajaj is trying to connect some of the manufacturers with Nepali hydropower developers.
Stating that Romania is good at wine production and the country is renowned all over Europe for its quality wine, Bajaj thinks the Romanian wines will be liked in Nepal as well.
Meanwhile, Romania has yet to put in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Nepal. Bajaj has been promoting tourism, hydropower, and infrastructure among Romanian businesses as the potential areas to put their money.
“I have been telling them that anything produced in Nepal can be exported to India duty-free as Nepal and India enjoy a very good trade relationship. The consulate has been telling them manufacturing also has opportunities in Nepal,” added Bajaj. “But investors first see their interest. They come here only if they see the opportunity.”
Bajaj joined Honorary Consular Corps-Nepal (HCCN) in 2019. He said it wasn’t very active at that time. There were only 20-25 members, now the number has crossed more than 50, he added. “Young members have also joined us lately, and some kind of synergy is there. Things are going very smoothly, and we are more in communication with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” he said, adding: “I think it will be more active in the coming days.”