By Shahidul K. K. Shuvra
Bangladesh reopened its Embassy in Bucharest for exploring bilateral business opportunities with Romania and aimed at extending the diplomatic relationship with other East European countries from the mission. In the last summer, the embassy was made in a beautiful antique house stands at a historical road called Dr. Burghelea. The ambassador Mr. Daud Ali and his team of diplomats with their family members reached Romania when COVID-19 fear was gripping the world, they avoided the risk of coronavirus infection and finally launched the Embassy.
Last few years the reopening of the Embassy in Romania was often heard from the Bangladeshi media; it was reported that the country is trying to rebuild the diplomatic tie with Romania. In the budget speech of 2017 the then Finance Minister of Bangladesh, AMA Muhith, declared reopening the Embassy in Romania and the plan to spread more missions across the world.
The historical relation between Romania and Bangladesh is long, but, unfortunately, so far unwritten in a detail. In the Bangladesh liberation war against Pakistan, in 1971, Romania was on the side of Bangladesh with providing a lot of supports; in fact, it was one of the early countries, which recognized Bangladesh as a sovereign nation. Gratefully Bangladesh always admits Romania’s contribution to the liberation war of the country. But the irony is now Pakistan set more diplomatic collaboration with Romania that Bangladesh couldn’t, one of the reasons for the failure is withdrawing its diplomatic mission from Bucharest in the mid of 1990s, which was a diplomatic blunder.
In the 70s and 80s, there was an association for Bangladeshi students in Romania. One of my uncles was vice president of the association, who came to Romania as a Ph.D. student in 1977 when a massive earthquake shook the nation, as I heard from my uncle that Bangladeshi students rushed to rescue people fallen under debris.
Once there was a nice Romanian Embassy in Dhaka, diplomats were involved in socializing with people in the town, often used to visit my uncle’s house. Some successful businesses were done between the two nations; the partnership in education was remarkable; in the 70s and 80s, Bengali students earned higher degrees from the country.
If we go back to history, Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore visited Romania, entered from the Constanța port, where his penfriend, a young Romanian girl, was waiting to meet him, and he was conferred a Ph.D. degree at the University of Bucharest. Some of his works were translated into the Romanian language by a Bengali lady named Amita Bhose, who migrated to Romania; she taught some Romanian students Bengali language, and there was a Bengali learning course at the University of Bucharest.
The love story between Romanian philosopher Mircea Eliade and Bengali poetess Maitreyi Devi is well-known in Romania. She was born in Chittagong of Bangladesh, later her family moved to West Bengal where Mircea Eliade used to live and visited a part of Bangladesh.
The repercussion of withdrawing the embassies from both countries disconnected Bangladesh from East Europe. Romania is the biggest country in East Europe, for business the country is called the gateway to East Europe. In terms of the size, the country has less population, where not only Bangladesh looks for the labor market, their businessmen can invest, even mid-level businessmen have a lot of scopes to run garments and agricultural businesses. Chinese small businessmen are running shops in a big whole sell market called Dragonul Rosu; similarly, Bangladeshi businessmen can open their showrooms in Romania, where the rent of shops is less than in Dhaka. Students who are eager to have European degrees can take admission to Romanian universities because the costs of education and living aren’t high in the country.
Romanian investors can join Bangladeshi entrepreneurs; jointly they can set up the garment, pharmaceutical, ceramic, IT, fishery etcetera industries in both countries. Romania can export wheat, edible oil, chocolates, fruits etcetera to Bangladesh. Romanian wheat is one of the finest in the world, wheat consumption in the country is on the rise and became one of the biggest wheat importing country, Bangladeshi wheat importers could book the Romanian wheat field before they grow. They have many skilled engineers who could be employed in plants in Bangladesh. Now some Romanians are working, especially in the textile sector. Romania now doesn’t have any diplomatic mission in Dhaka, so the problem of visa seekers is– they have to go to Delhi to apply for a visa, and they have to wait for two or three weeks in another country for obtaining a visa, which is time-consuming and expensive.
Before starting the premise of businesses cultural and educational exchange programs are needed. Some Romanians told me they want to learn Bengali to read the works of Rabindranath Tagore in the original. National poet of Romania Mihai Eminescu, who was the last Romantic poet in Europe, studied Sanskrit, which contributed to creating the Bengali language.
They are interested in Sufi ideas flourished in the Bengle, blended with other faiths and cults. Some of the Romanian folks are interested in Baul music; I have seen Bengali mystic songs enthralled them, and thus they are willing to learn the philosophy of Lalon Fakir. Movie Moner Manush, filmed in Bangladesh, was shown several times in Bucharest, and the audience was very interested to understand the movie. Public universities of Bangladesh could provide scholarships to Romanian students to learn orient languages, religions, music, and cultures.
The greatest Romanian footballer Gheorghe Hagi became a household name in Dhaka during the football world cups, from the 80s to 90s. A popular biscuit brand name in Bangladesh is “Romania”, the owner of the biscuit factory was a big fan of Gheorghe Hagi, and thus the owner had chosen the name of Hagi’s country as the name of the product. Romania has world-class footballers who can play in the Bangladeshi football clubs, and their experienced coaches can train Bangladeshi footballers.
Romania’s relation-building with Bangladesh could be important for the country because the economy of Bangladesh is now vibrant, growth GDP is going up despite the COVID-19 situation, superseding India’s GDP and became the richest country in South Asia; they are globally one of the best in garment, leather, fishery, shipbreaking etcetera industries.
I think that a strong diplomatic presence with the mission in Romania will connect Bangladesh with the country as well as other East European nations, which is an unexplored zone for Bangladeshis; especially for businesses; both countries have many things to share through diplomatic endeavors and involving their citizens in the trade.
*Shahidul K. K. Shuvra is a journalist; his poetry is translated into the Romanian language, and he delivers speeches at seminars in Bucharest.