Vision of IRSEA. Romania has been continuously appreciated as a trustworthy partner by the countries in Asia. The bilateral relations between Romania and the Asian countries are free of direct political issues and with a rich history and dynamic developments over many years. Likewise, the relations between Romania and the Asian states are similarly robust at multilateral level, with a particularly strong cooperation at the UN, ASEM, ASEAN and other international formats.
In the aftermath of her 1989 democratic breakthrough, Romania has channeled utmost efforts towards deepening the integration within the European and Euro-Atlantic structures with an aim to safeguard her new democratic path, security and well-being of the Romanian people; it is against this backdrop that the bilateral relations with countries in other regions of the world have apparently developed at a different pace.
According to the Romanian President, Klaus Iohannis, the country’s bilateral relations with her partners in Asia, and not only, are expected to gain momentum starting with 2023: “At the same time, the investment of new energy is needed to reconnect or keep close, as the case may be, Romania's friends and partners in the Middle East, the Gulf, Africa, the Indo-Pacific and Latin America. In the current moment of global crossroads, it is not geographical distances that matter, but the proximity of values and action in mutual support when needed.” (Speech at the Annual Meeting of Romanian Diplomacy, 2022)
It is in this ambit that IRSEA continues to actively support, through all its means and its status as officially recognized think-tank, Romania’s steady efforts to further strengthen her long, continuous and sincere bilateral relations with her partners and friends in Asia. There is a need to know each other better, which is the target of IRSEA’s newest project titled “IRSEA Bridges to Asia”- an avenue opened for High Officials, Ambassadors, IRSEA partners and professional analysts, from both Asia and Romania.
The bilateral relations between Pakistan and Romania have been expressively illustrated by H.E. Dr. Zafar Iqbal, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to Romania, also a Honorary Member of IRSEA.
In his insightful article, His Excellency Ambassador Iqbal makes a concise yet comprehensive review of the excellent bilateral relations so happily existing between Pakistan and Romania, from both a historical and a sectorial perspective. At the same time, Ambassador Iqbal manifests his most sincere hope for further strengthening the Pakistan-Romania friendship.
Pakistan is the 5th largest country in the world population wise, counting over 220 million inhabitants. It is going through an economic transformation, owing to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), in its efforts to become a hub of the economic activities for the region – the Western China, the Central Asia, the Middle East, the Gulf countries, the Western Asia etc.
Romania is also a country with a strategic location with opening to the Black Sea, which can serve as hub in the region countries in the South-Eastern and Eastern Europe, as well as for the Central Europe.
Pakistan and Romania have enjoyed close and friendly relations all along. In the 1960s,70s and 80s, the economic aspect of the relationship between the two countries was very strong. Romania being a technologically advanced country supported Pakistan in our industrialization efforts assisting us in expanding and establishing industries in oil, fertilizers and cement sectors. In those days, there were many Romanian experts and engineers (and their families) living in Pakistan. Bucharest and Karachi had direct flights, 3 times a week. Every couple of years or so, we had some high-level bilateral visit at the level of President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister etc.
After the revolution, Romania has been focusing more on the EU but relations continued to remain friendly and warm. One can sense that Romania, after having firmed up its place in the EU, has been giving attention to other regions of the world.
Pakistan considers Romania an important country not only in the context of EU but also in view of Romania’s historical role as a supporter of multilateralism and the third world and there has been regular exchange of views between the two sides and both sides have an understanding of each other’s positions on most of the regional and global issues.
We have a desire to further strengthen our friendship with Romania in diverse areas. Consistent progress has been seen in relationship particularly in areas of trade, higher education, defence, human resource, academia/think tanks. There is an increasing frequency of exchange of visits at official level and people to people interaction is on the rise.
Last year, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan visited Romania, the first visit at the level of Foreign Minister in decades, and we are looking forward to a similar visit by the Foreign Minister of Romania to Pakistan. We can say that now we have a reopening in the direction of building a stronger bilateral engagement.
Our vision for Pakistan-Romania economic and trade relations is to create an enabling environment wherein business communities of both sides could interact more and feel facilitated. Our main priorities include, inter alia, establishing a direct interface between Romanian and Pakistani communities, establishing institutional linkages between different Chambers of the two countries. We have been holding business forums attended by Romanian companies operating in various counties in different trade sectors. We actively use social media tools and have also established a dedicated export exhibition hall at the Embassy. The space in the hall is available to showcase Pakistani exportable commodities. This can enable Romanian businesses to have a direct look at some of our items.
Last year, bilateral trade with Romania was around US$ 179 million – the highest in our bilateral trade history. Of this, Pakistan’s exports to Romania amounted to some US$ 65 million. Two years ago, our bilateral trade was only US$ 46 million. In last eight months (July 2022-Feb 2023), according to State Bank of Pakistan’s data, bilateral trade volume was over US$ 250 million. Both sides continue efforts to achieve more. While Pakistan can export more to Romania, we, with a population of over 220 million, offer a huge market for Romanian products.
Apart from trade, both countries can benefit from collaboration in human resource sector. Pakistan has a human resource surplus that has contributed to the development of other countries and societies e.g. the Gulf countries, North America and Western Europe etc. We have some 9 million Pakistanis living and working abroad. Pakistanis would definitely like to come and work in Romania and contribute to the development of this country.
I feel that it is only natural that Pakistan-Romania relations would grow stronger in the coming years. Romanians and Pakistanis, our societies share some important common values: the family, the friendship etc. There are even some words in Urdu which sound like Romanian such as “cameră”, “perdea”, “ceainic” etc. Romania, like Pakistan, is a beautiful country endowed with a variety of topography and has resources of almost all kinds. Both countries have complementarities in many sectors of economies and more collaboration will be a win-win for both sides.
In the end, I would add that I have visited and lived in many countries, but I have never been to a more enchanting land than Romania. And I do not say this just because I am serving here and an ambassador is supposed to say good words about the host country but I say this from the bottom of my heart. I say this because the people are friendly and have warmth - and this is what any human being needs the most, the cost of life is comparatively lower, the weather has all the varieties, the geography and topography are stunning and the country is endowed with immense resources. As Romania continues progressing, Pakistan looks forward to further deepen bilateral engagement with this important European nation.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy, position or view of IRSEA.