Pakistan-Romania relations: Historic friendship, promising future

The relations between Pakistan and Romania date back to 1964 when the diplomatic relations between these two countries were formally established. Romania is considered by Pakistan to be an important country and partner in South Asia. The relations between the two friendly nations were particularly robust during the 1970s and 1980s, when there was sizeable barter trade, economic activity and exchange of visits between them. There are prominent economic icons in Pakistan that trace their linkage to Romania. For instance, Romania assisted in the setting up of the National Oil Refinery at Karachi and also helped establish cement and fertilizer plants in Pakistan. Since its joining of the European Union in 2007, Romania has expressed considerable goodwill to further enhance its relations with Pakistan in all fields.                                                     

During the past few years, the high level political interactions between Pakistan and Romania have picked up pace. Former Speaker of National Assembly of Pakistan visited Romania in March 2016. Former Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Mr. Sartaj Aziz held a meeting with the then Romanian Foreign Minister Mr. Lazar Comanescu on the sidelines of the 11thASEM Summit in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia on 16 July 2016. Minister for Defence Production of Pakistan paid a visit to Romania in August 2016.

The bilateral relations between Pakistan and Romania are diverse and quite promising in nature, although their true potential still awaits full exploration. These diverse relations range from economic and trade to educational, defence, diplomatic as well as people-to-people contacts.

The two countries have a formal mechanism of bilateral political consultations that are regularly held between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the two countries on a biennial basis. The last round of these consultations was held in Bucharest in 2017. The forthcoming round is scheduled for Islamabad in 2019. The mechanism of bilateral consultations provides a unique forum for discussing multifarious issues of common interest between the two friendly countries. The two countries also continue to support each other at various multilateral fora as well.

The bilateral trade between the two countries currently stands at around Euro 51.4 million (Figures for January-October 2018). Pakistan is importing oil seeds and oleaginous fruits, machinery and its parts, petroleum & chemical elements as well as compounds from Romania. Pakistan's major exports to Romania include chemical material and products, material of animal origin, cotton fabric (woven), synthetic fabrics and manufactured textile goods. This existing bilateral trade level is much below the true potential of bilateral trade between the two countries. However, on a positive note, the commercial activity between Pakistan and Romania is gradually picking up pace especially through increasing exchange of trade missions between the two countries and is likely to improve in the coming years. 

Pakistan offers multiple opportunities to interested International and Romanian business enterprises. Since 2013-14, the Pakistani economy has witnessed a smooth upward trend in growth rate.  Real GDP growth was above four percent in 2013-14 and has smoothly increased during the last four years to reach 5.8 percent in 2018. It is therefore, ripe time that as the business activity in Pakistan expands; the Romanian business community explores this emerging market.

In terms of mutual collaboration in the field of education, Romania’s renowned Polytehnica University is currently collaborating with different research institutions of Pakistan. Furthermore, a number of other Pakistani universities have also expressed interest in enhancing institutionalized collaboration with Polytehnica University of Bucharest. As another example, the Romanian Institute for Europe-Asia Studies (IRSEA) and the Islamabad Institute of Strategic Studies (ISSI), the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS) ,the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad, Preston University, Kohat as well as Society of Asian Civilizations (SAC), Islamabad have also established institutional mechanisms for mutual collaboration. In addition, ISSI has also entered into institutional linkages with the Middle East Political and Economic Institute, Bucharest.

Pakistan and Romania are also focusing on enhancing cultural footprint in each other’s social milieu. Recent manifestations of these in Bucharest were the biggest ever Pakistan Flash Mob in the world organized by the Embassy of Pakistan in Bucharest in 2017. Similarly, quite recently, the Embassy of Pakistan, Bucharest arranged the first ever Pakistan Film Festival in Romania and Eastern Europe in Eforie Cinema (Bucharest). This three-day event attracted huge Romanian audience and media coverage. The festival is now likely to become an annual flagship cultural festivity brought to Romanians by the Embassy of Pakistan in Bucharest. A number of Romanian artists and musicians are increasingly performing in Pakistan nowadays. This is an extremely positive development and self-explanatory in terms of the role that Pakistan has now reassumed as the cultural centre of South Asia. In July 2017, the Embassy of Pakistan in Bucharest organized the first ever Pakistan Golf Cup in Bucharest.

The narrative of Pakistan-Romania historic relations would be incomplete without the mentioning of the vibrant Pakistani diaspora resident in Romania. Though, a relatively small community of around 150-200 individuals, the Pakistani diaspora in Romania is a law abiding, hardworking, professional and enterprising group which is not only contributing towards the betterment of Romanian economy but is also bringing accolades for Pakistan.

Pakistan and Romania have a lot to offer to each other. As the two countries expand their profiles on the international stage, these two friendly nations can synergize their capabilities to counter common challenges in the years ahead. Our remarkable historical ties have set the stage for our promising future already.

By courtesy of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in Bucharest