Abstract. Pakistan and Romania are situated in the world regions that are categorized by political dynamism and volatility (i.e. South Asia and Black Sea Area respectively). Both these countries share borders with such countries in their respective regions that are undergoing internal / external political turmoil. At its end, while Pakistan confronts a unique challenge of being neighbor to India that has insatiable hegemonic ambitions, Romania, holding the eastern frontiers of the European Union, faces its own security dilemmas especially in terms of its perceived threats from Russia. This paper is aimed at examining the peculiar features and approaches of Pakistan and Romania towards regionalism. This paper essentially argues that for both Pakistan and Romania, the security, economic and cultural aspects form the paramount considerations for their approaches towards regionalism. In this context, Romania’s approach towards regionalism is predominantly governed by Europeanization and strategic partnership with the US. Within this policy parameter, Romania’s approach appears to be further oriented towards promoting the common interests of Eastern Europe. The paper further argues that Pakistan considers regional cooperation as a pivot for socio-economic uplift and economic development. In addition, the country’s Islamic character and close cultural and historical linkages with the Muslim world also remain major trending factors in terms of Pakistan’s approach towards regionalism.
Key words: Pakistan; Romania; Europeanization; Romania – US strategic partnership; Economic Development; Regionalism; Security; Cultural; Regional Connectivity
Pakistan and Romania are located in the world regions that are prone to conflict and instability reverberating beyond their geographical limitations. Black Sea region, with its frozen conflicts, coupled with ethnic and regional imbalances tends to exert pressures on Romania (Romania, 2015). In a similar manner, South Asia is infested with its own peculiar socio-economic challenges and faced with external and internal security threats which are further compounded by such social problems as huge population, poverty etc. (Yousaf, Ahmad, & Shah, 2017).
Both Pakistan and Romania, owing to their specific strategic location enjoy pivotal significance in their respective regions. This geo-strategic location of Pakistan and Romania in their respective regions comes with its unique characteristics as well. For instance, Pakistan is neighbor to Afghanistan that itself has been facing internal turmoil and instability for over four decades. Pakistan also shares borders with Iran that remains restive and isolated owing to the international sanctions that it is faced with (Al-Sulami, 2019). On its eastern side, Pakistan neighbors India, whose hegemonic ambitions coupled with support for terrorism in the region (Qureshi, 2018)
is a known fact. As for the Black Sea region, it also remains a locus of ‘protracted conflicts’ as well as militarization, especially following Russia – Ukraine crisis since 2014 (Kuimova, Romania and Black Sea Security, 2018). Such a bleak security scenario has affected Romania in its own peculiar shade.
It may be highlighted that it is in the presence of the aforementioned challenging regional political milieu, enmeshed with the economic priorities and cultural funda-mentals, that Pakistan and Romania have evolved their unique approaches towards regionalism. In the following lines, we shall analyze these aspects in further detail.
Before venturing deeper into the approaches of Pakistan and Romania towards ‘Regionalism’, it would be useful to examine the notions of ‘region’ and ‘regionalism’ per se. As for the term ‘region’, the current global system is comprised of numerous sub-systems which are assumed to be constituted on the basis of geo-political charac-terristics. It is these sub-systems, wherefrom the term ‘regions’ has evolved (Sudhakar, 1994).
As for ‘regionalism’, Frederick Soederbaum elaborates this concept by suggesting that the notion of ‘regionalism’ is meant to imply the “body of ideas, values and objectives that contribute to the creation, maintenance or modification of a particular region or type of world order”. He highlights that ‘regionalism’ is normally linked up with some formalized policy prescription and results in the building up of institutions. He therefore concludes that regionalism links up the agents to a “specific project that is limited spatially or socially but not in time”.
ROMANIA’S APPROACH TOWARDS REGIONALISM
Romania’s approach towards regionalism appears to have been guided historically by three motivating factors. These include first and foremost, the factor of security followed by that of economic considerations and last but not the least, linguistic-based cultural linkages. Romania’s approach towards regionalism is essentially guided by ‘Europeanization’ and Romania – US strategic partnership (Roth, The Impact of Europeanization, Americanisation, and Gazpromization on the articulation of Romania’s Foreign Policy dynamics in the wider Black Sea Area in the period 2005-2007, 2015). The country’s foreign policy witnessed a paradigm shift post-1996 in the wake of the Yugoslav crisis and that shift has been the leading factor for Romania’s approach towards regionalism ever since (Roth E.R., 2015). Following Russia’s economic crisis and its policies towards Yugoslav crises in the 1990s, Romania felt concerned that Kremlin’s policies may get replicated in the neighboring Moldova’s Transnistrian conflict as well. It was at that stage that Romania undertook a rerouting of its foreign policy course and got closer to the US essentially for the purposes of ensuring its security (Roth E.R., 2015). Ever since, Romania’s drift towards the US has been the leading force for that country’s approach towards regionalism. It implies that on region-nalism, Romania has now aligned and synchronized itself with the US approaches towards the region being its close strategic ally. As an example, one can clearly discern Romania’s policy approach within the context of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Romania’s insistence on ‘NATO first’ policy manifests the country’s proximity with the US priorities within the security priorities of NATO (Roth, 2015). In a similar manner, within the context of NATO, Romania’s strong commitment to spend 2% of its GDP on defence expenditures (Kuimova, 2018) and to launch a huge defence procurement plan is also a reflection of Romania’s strategic partnership with the US and continuation of this close relationship within the context of wider Black Sea region.
Coupled with Romania’s strategic partnership with the US, the second plank of Romania’s approach towards regionalism has remained the country’s march towards Europeanization i.e. Romania’s membership of the European Union and its entry into the security alliance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). However, Romania has also successfully kept its ‘Europeanization’ agenda in proximity with its strategic partnership with the US. As an instance, the energy security has remained an important policy plank of the US towards the Black Sea region. Romania, at its end, has accordingly been emphasizing the significance of the energy security within the EU framework as well. This manifests the delicate manner through which Romania keeps the two strands of its approaches towards regionalism i.e. Europeanization and its strategic relationship with the US, successfully linked together. During the Russia – EU energy crisis following the Georgian and Ukrainian crises, Romania continued to underscore the significance of such alternate energy routes, as in the form of Nabucco pipeline project, for instance. This alternative energy route was in fact, a manifestation of close Romania – US policy alignment in the region.
Romania’s approach towards regionalism is also manifested through that country’s increased emphasis on the importance of the Eastern Flank of the NATO’s area of responsibilities as well as the Black Sea region within the Euro-Atlantic security paradigm (Clock, 2019). Romania’s National Defence Strategy 2015-2019 is another demonstration of the security plank of Romania’s approach towards regionalism. It presents the theme of a ‘strong Romania within Europe and the world’, thus presenting Romania’s ambition to assume a sub-regional military power status (Kuimova, 2018). However, the manner in which Romania, while considering Black Sea region as the domain of its interest, criticizes Russia’s role in the above region; undertakes to spend 2% of its GDP on defence expenditures; and refers to terrorism (Roth E. R., 2015), highlight the significant aspects of Romania’s security plank of its approach towards regionalism (Roth E. R., 2015).
Another example within the context of Romania’s peculiar security dimension towards regionalism is the country’s active participation in different regional security-related exercises that are essentially led by the US. The Saber Guardian army exercise led by the US in the Black Sea region is one such instance. Similarly, training, operations and military exercises in the region led by the US Black Sea Rotational Force is another example, depicting Romania’s approach towards regionalism aligned with its strategic partnership with the US. In this regard, Platinum Lion 2018 ‘counterinsurgency peacekeeping exercise’ involving Albania, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Romania is another evident illustration of Romania’s security dimension of approach towards regionalism (Kuimova, 2018).
The manner in which Romania attempts to consolidate its sub-regional positioning within the wider regional security frameworks is also evident from the Bucharest-9 initiative, essentially a brainchild of Romanian and Polish Presidents. This forum is aimed at deepening cooperation and dialogue among the countries of the Eastern Flank of NATO (Iohannis K., President of Romania, 2018). It therefore aims at advancing the interests of the NATO’s Eastern Flank allies within the larger NATO framework. It signifies as to how, while associating itself with a wider regional grouping, Romania follows an approach of promoting and safeguarding its sub-regional priorities.
From the above analysis of the security dimension of Romania’s approach towards regionalism, one can clearly observe that the country’s approach towards setting up the priorities towards regional cooperation within the security parameters; and collaborating with the regional countries on this account is guided by its Europeanization agenda and in sync with Romania – US strategic partnership.
In addition to the security dimension of Romania’s approach towards regionalism, economic development is another important consideration for the country’s approach towards regionalism. In this context, Romania’s membership of the European Union (EU) is a clear example. Within the European Union, however, Romania’s policy preference also remains inclined towards prioritizing the Eastern European countries. Within the Union, Romania, therefore, also aspires to develop a separate clout of the Eastern European countries for garnering mutual economic benefits and advantages. Within the economic context of regionalism, Romania has been initiating or joining different regional cooperative initiatives lately as well. For instance, Romania has recently been getting proactively involved in the ‘Three Seas Initiative’, originally a brainchild of Poland. At the Bucharest Summit 2018 of the above Initiative, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis clearly remarked that the ‘Three Seas Initiative’ would be ‘able to deliver concrete results and instruments’ and that it was ‘compliant with the objectives of the European Union Single Market’ (Iohannis K., President of Romania, 2018). This clearly indicated that Romania intends to employ such regional initiatives like the ‘Three Seas Initiative’ as a means towards consolidating economic convergence and cohesion of the regional countries that are also Member States of the EU (Iohannis K., President of Romania, 2018). The Business Forum of the ‘Three Seas Initiative’ that held its first meeting on the margins of the Bucharest Summit 2018 as well as the launch of the ‘Network of the Chambers of Commerce’ of the participating countries to support the activities of the above Business Forum indicate Romania’s preference towards regional interconnectivity (Iohannis, 2018) in sync with the European Project within the premise of the wider EU context.
Last but not the least, is the cultural dimension of Romania’s approach towards regionalism. In terms of its cultural affiliations, Romania is connected and associated with the wider European family. For instance, Romanian President Iohannis, while addressing an event organized in Bucharest on 12 March 2019 to mark the International Francophonie Day, remarked that for Romania, “being part of the large Francophone family” meant “more than just common cultural heritage”. He added that the modernity and Europeanization of Romania had “built on the principles and ideals promoted in the world through the French language, completing in politics, education and culture” (Iohannis K., President of Romania, 2019). This statement clearly signifies as to how Romania links itself up in terms of its cultural heritage within the wider European context.
PAKISTAN’S APPROACH TOWARDS REGIONALISM
The crux of Pakistan’s approach towards regionalism can be gauged from Article 40 of its Constitution which states that “the State shall endeavor to preserve and strengthen fraternal relations among Muslim countries based on Islamic unity, support the common interests of the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America, promote international peace and security, foster goodwill and friendly relations among all nations and encourage the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means”. Furthermore, the principles of the foreign policy of Pakistan are aimed at the pursuit of national goals of seeking peace and stability through international cooperation. On this account, special emphasis is paid to economic diplomacy (MoFA, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, 2019).
Based on the above essential principles of Pakistan’s foreign policy, one can clearly discern the essential motivating factors of Pakistan’s approach towards regionalism being its cultural and historical linkages with the Muslim world, economic development through regional connectivity; as well as its security.
Pakistan being a ‘moderate progressive Islamic country’ (Khan J.A., 2007) has always had an important role to play in the Islamic world. Furthermore, owing to its historical and cultural linkages with the West and Central Asia coupled with its muslim identity, Pakistan always remained inclined towards consolidating its relationship with the countries in these regions. Led by its cultural and historical linkages, therefore, Pakistan took the lead role in terms of constituting the second largest inter-gover-nmental grouping in the world after the UN, entitled “Organization of Islamic Cooperation (Initiative, 2019). OIC can be safely regarded as one of the most diverse entities in the world, bringing together Muslim countries from around the world. Pakistan, being a founding member of the OIC, has played a pivotal role in terms of enhancing regional and inter-regional cooperation among the Member States through this forum.
The manner in which the cultural and economic dimensions come together to serve an important pivot for Pakistan’s approach towards regionalism is manifested through the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) for which Pakistan again acted as a founding Member State. A successor of Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD), ECO was established in 1985 and serves as an important forum for exploring the economic potential of its Member States through such essential areas as infrastructure, energy and trade to name a few. Though the Organization has yet to explore the regional potential to its full, essentially owing to the political instability in Afghanistan (Shahzad, 2017), it definitely appears to have a very promising future as a regional grouping.
Analysts normally consider that while Central Asia is a ‘region of choice’ for Pakistan, South Asia, is a ‘region of necessity’ for the country (Shahzad, 2017). Accordingly, Pakistan has also been playing a proactive role in terms of the South Asian Asso-ciation for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) comprising eight Member States from the region. Unfortunately, despite Pakistan’s commitment towards promoting the common regional economic interests through this forum, the success of SAARC has remained limited, essentially owing to the presence of India as its Member State that pursues hegemonic ambitions in the region and acts as a ‘hostile competitor’ for Pakistan (Khan J.A., 2007).
To sum up the cultural dimension of Pakistan’s approach towards regionalism, one can safely discern two main pivots. On one side, Pakistan’s religious connection and background forms the strong basis of its regional proximity with the Islamic world in the form of OIC. As for Pakistan’s geographical; linguistic; historical; demographic and cultural connections with Central Asia, Pakistan has always had a very close association with Turkey, Iran and Central Asia. The constitution of ECO and Pakistan’s active involvement in this organization is a reflection of Pakistan’s close association with this part of the world. As for South Asia, Pakistan shares a part of its history with the Subcontinent as well. This aspect has led to Pakistan’s active participation at the level of SAARC as well. Despite India’s continued attempts at suffocating SAARC as a regional forum, Pakistan remains committed to this regional entity.
As indicated earlier, the economic dimension of Pakistan’s approach towards regionalism is guided by the theme of regional connectivity. Pakistan serves as a hub for regional connectivity and has therefore been geared towards advancing its approach towards regionalism based on this ideal. Pakistan’s connection with the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI) as well as the constituent China – Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a clear manifestation of this approach. The manner in which Pakistan views regional connectivity can be gauged from the recent remarks by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Second Belt and Road Forum when he stated that “In a world of geopolitical uncertainty, of rising inequality and barriers to trade, the BRI offers a model of collaboration, partnership, connectivity and shared prosperity” (Khan P.M., 2019). This clearly implies that through regional connectivity as an approach towards regionalism, Pakistan envisions realizing the agenda of ‘shared prosperity’ (Khan P.M., 2019) for all; i.e. a win-win situation for regional progress. Prime Minister Imran Khan also hinted at employing such initiatives as a means towards removing any ‘impediments’ to sustainable growth (Khan P.M., 2019). This indicates the unique utility that Pakistan considers that regionalism can serve. The manner in which Pakistan views regionalism as a means towards enhancing intra-regional trade is manifested through the remarks made by the Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the 17th meeting of the Heads of Governments of the SCO, where he underscored ‘cooperation among SCO countries in the field of multilateral trade and removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers’. The Foreign Minister of Pakistan also expressed support for the initiative concerning the establishment of SCO Development Bank and SCO Development Fund (Report, 2018).
As one looks at Pakistan’s approach towards regionalism, once can clearly observe that within this context, Pakistan has also been experimenting successfully with the idea of sub-regional initiatives, for focusing on different thematic aspects. Under the banner of BRI, China – Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is one such instance. In a similar manner, the Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism (QCCM) that was initiated in 2016 for countering terrorism and which brought together Pakistan, China, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, is another such example of sub-regional cooperative initiatives (Shahzad, 2017). This is a unique characteristic of Pakistan’s approach towards regionalism, guided by thematic focus.
Security, especially in terms of efforts aimed at countering terrorism, is yet another important dimension of Pakistan’s approach towards regionalism. Under this banner, Pakistan has been actively coordinating with different regional countries through such regional entities as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC). In case of SCO, despite the fact that India has historically been sponsoring terrorism directly and through its proxies in Pakistan as well as other countries of the region, Pakistan’s approach in the context of SCO has been to continue with its constructive engagement within the Organization. As an instance, while addressing the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of SCO in Bishkek in May 2019, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah Mahmood Qureshi underscored the significance of ‘conflict resolution’ in South Asia and the need to address the ‘root causes’ of the problem of terrorism (PTI, 2019). Pakistan’s constructive approach towards regionalism could be gauged from the fact that despite repeated Indian prevarications on the issue of terrorism and its attempts at destabilizing Pakistan through terrorist activities, Pakistan, at its end, delivered the ‘message of peace’ to its neighbor by opening up Kartarpur corridor for the Sikh Community (PTI, 2019). This unprecedented move is a clear reflection of Pakistan’s unique approach towards regionalism, based on the guiding principles of promoting international peace and security as mentioned earlier.
COMPARISONS AND CONTRASTS
Pakistan and Romania’s approaches towards regionalism are comparable at certain junctures and have astounding contrasts at certain other nodes.
To begin with, as mentioned earlier, a common ground to be observed in case of Pakistan and Romania’s approaches towards regionalism is that these are based on the pillars of security, economic dimension as well as cultural factors. In case of Pakistan, the general orientation of regionalism is based on ideological; cultural and historical affinities and association with the Muslim world as well as South and Central Asia. On the other side, Romania’s approach towards regionalism is led by Europeanization and guided by its strategic partnership with the US. Ideological orientation, however, has got less to do as a constitutive factor in case of Romania.
In terms of security dimension of Romania’s approach towards regionalism, strategic partnership of Romania with the US serves as an important causal factor. The same is not true for Pakistan’s approach towards regionalism. For Romania, being a NATO Member State and a strategic ally of the US, its perceived threats from Russia serve as the major cause of concern. The security dimension of Romanian approach towards regionalism therefore appears country-specific in character. As an instance, Romania’s National Defence Strategy 2015-2019 narrates the “deterioration of relations between NATO and Russia, active conflicts in the region and terrorism as ‘paradigm changes’ in the security environment” (Kuimova, 2018). Romanian Defence Ministers have also been quite vocal on this account. For instance, in March 2017, Romanian Defence Minister, Gabriel-Beniamin Leş, had alluded to ‘increased risks and challenges fuelled by the assertive / aggressive Russia’ in the Black Sea region and ‘the militarization of the Black Sea by Russia’. In January 2018, the then Romanian Foreign Minister Mihai Fifor had suggested ‘Russia’s extremely aggressive presence in the region’ as the reason for the plans to ‘beef up [Romania’s] naval capabilities’ (Kuimova, 2018).
In contrast to Romania, Pakistan’s approach towards regionalism appears quite different in terms of the security dimension. The recent address by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the SCO’s Council of Foreign Ministers Meeting (21-22 May 2019) in Bishkek speaks volumes of Pakistan’s security dimension of approach towards regionalism. While addressing the Plenary of the meeting, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister stated that “Pakistan’s membership of SCO” was an “acknowledge-ment of the significance that Pakistan attaches to regional peace, stability, common development and prosperity”. He also emphasized Pakistan’s vision of peaceful and prosperous neighborhood underpinned by win-win partnerships. While addressing the meeting, Foreign Minister of Pakistan, expressed Pakistan’s willingness to share its experiences and expertise in the field of counter-terrorism and elaborated on the achievements and sacrifices of Pakistan in this domain. He also underscored the need to address the “root causes of terrorism”. The seven-point agenda presented by the Foreign Minister of Pakistan for sustaining SCO’s momentum towards attaining peace, stability and prosperity included inter-alia, the “importance of dispute resolution mechanism and confidence building measures among Member States, arresting missile defence systems and keeping outer space free of weapons, measures to combat drug trafficking and corruption, synergizing various connectivity initiatives under SCO, and vitalizing SCO financial and trade mechanisms” (MoFA, 2019). This signifies that Pakistan’s security dimension of approach towards regionalism is thematic in character.
Regional connectivity as a lead factor for the economic dimension of regionalism appears a commonality in terms of Pakistan and Romania’s regional overtures and initiatives. For Romania, this serves as a means to solidify its clout within the European Union and to better guard its wider economic goals within the Union. For Pakistan, regional connectivity serves as a pivot for full exploitation of the regional economic goals in general and Pakistan’s economic potential in specific.
As for the cultural dimension, while Romania looks at its Francophone linkages as a bonding factor for regionalism, Pakistan’s cultural dimension of approach towards regionalism is premised on its Muslim character and historical as well as Islamic roots. As Romania looks beyond its geographical region for tracing its cultural linkages, Pakistan’s conceptualization of region is constituted on the basis of its Islamic history and traditions.
From the above discussion, one can observe that the approaches towards regionalism being employed by both Pakistan and Romania carry some common causal dimensions of economic; security and cultural considerations. Despite their many commonalities, including inter-alia being at the junction of different geographical regions, Pakistan and Romania are confronted by their unique challenges owing to their complex neighborhood. As a result thereof, both Pakistan and Romania have evolved some dominating features of their approach towards regionalism.
As discussed above, Romania’s approach towards regionalism is closeted within the paradigm of Europeanization amalgamated with the country’s strategic partnership with the US. As a result of this, Romania’s approach towards regionalism is essentially premised on ‘uploading’ US priorities and agenda within the regional overtures and initiatives, even at the level of the European Union and NATO. This is indeed a unique policy approach wherein, Romania has wholly contoured its approach towards regionalism within the parameters of its strategic relationship with the US. It is also reflective of Romania’s traditional approach of bandwagoning with big powers. It is also for the above reason that there is no discernable point where Romania’s approach towards regionalism comes in contradiction with the US priorities and preferences in the Wider Black Sea region.
For Pakistan, while the country’s foreign policy is aimed at pursuing the national goals of peace and stability through international cooperation, its approach towards regionalism appears to be pivoted at ensuring ‘optimal utilization of national resources for regional cooperation’. While doing so, however, Pakistan emphasizes its religious, historical and cultural linkages especially with the muslim world. It is precisely for this reason that Pakistan remains a part of different regional entities at the same time. This also reflects Pakistan’s strong cross-regional linkages on one side, and the country’s religious and historical associations as the lead factors in terms of Pakistan’s approach towards regionalism, on the other side. Pakistan’s security dimension of approach towards regionalism is also unique in the sense that it appears quite focused owing to its thematic undertones. Pakistan consolidates its approach towards regionalism and amalgamates all the relevant dimensions mentioned above through what is termed as ‘regional connectivity’. This depicts the importance that Pakistan attaches to economic development and the optimal utilization of its resources for which peace; stability and common progress appear to act as the enabling factors.
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