The relations between Pakistan and Romania span over five decades. Ever since the commencement of their formal diplomatic relations in 1964, Pakistan and Romania have enjoyed close and friendly relationship, based on mutual trust and confidence. The relations between Pakistan and Romania have always remained politically sound. However, in economic terms, the pinnacle of these relations was achieved during the 1970s and 1980s, when there was sizeable barter trade, economic activity and exchange of visits between the two countries. During these years, Romania made a very forthcoming contribution towards assisting Pakistan in consolidating its industrial base as well. 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. It was during this era, that the Romanian tractors were also very popular in Pakistan.
Following its joining of the European Union in 2007, Romania’s orientation in terms of economic relations understandably turned towards the European Union. However, in recent years, Romania has again started revitalizing its economic relations with Asia and accordingly been interested in diversifying its trade and economic contacts with Pakistan. Not only in economic terms, but Romania has also started diversifying its relations with Pakistan in other domains ranging from defence, education, culture, people-to-people contacts to scientific collaboration.
The strength of Pakistan – Romania relations can be gauged from the fact that it has withstood all the internal and external political vicissitudes faced by both countries. Following Romania’s accession to the European Union, the high level political interactions between Pakistan and Romania again started picking up pace gradually. For instance, the then Speaker of National Assembly of Pakistan Ayaz Sadiq 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 11th ASEM Summit in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia on 16 July 2016. The then Minister for Defence Production of Pakistan paid a visit to Romania in August 2016.
Pakistan and Romania currently have a formal mechanism of bilateral political consultations in place. Regular consultations under this framework are 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 later this year. 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 US$ 70.52 million (2018). Pakistan imports 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. The existing bilateral trade is much below the true potential of the two countries. However, the commercial activity between Pakistan and Romania is gradually picking up pace and is likely to improve in the coming years. In July 2018, a trade Mission from the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry led by its then President Zahid Latif visited Romania. Besides concluding a MoU with the Romanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the visiting trade Mission also held discussions with different business sectors’ representatives of Romania aimed at exploring opportunities for mutual economic collaboration between Pakistan and Romania.
Romania offers considerable opportunities to Pakistan in terms of the labor sector demands. Pakistan commands the comparative advantage of having a huge reserve of low-cost and well trained as well as diligent labor. In specific, Pakistan’s textile sector labor has marked its distinction around the world. This sector therefore, offers huge opportunities for Romanian textile sector that is currently facing acute labor shortages. Another domain where Pakistani labor could be utilized in Romania is the construction sector. As Romania expands its construction sector, Pakistan’s labor could serve as a cost-effective catalyst for this sector’s growth in Romania. Some prominent Romanian construction companies have recently started exploring the labor sector in Pakistan. One Romanian company has already initiated the process of recruiting over 400 individuals for its construction-related projects in Romania.
Pakistan and Romania have a lot to gain through their mutual collaboration in the fields of defence and defence production. Pakistan stands willing to enhance its defence-related collaboration with Romania in its different sub-domains. The bilateral exchanges between Pakistan and Romania in defence field is gradually picking up pace. The Romanian Naval Chief Vice Admiral Alexandru MÎRŞU PhD visited Pakistan in February 2019 to attend the AMAN-19 Exercises. Earlier, a Romanian delegation led by Major General Dr. Nicolae LUPULESCU, Military Attorney Advisor to the Romanian Chief of Defence also attended IDEAS 2018 in Pakistan. Prior to this, former Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta attended IDEAS 2016 as well. At present, two Pakistan Naval vessels (OPVs) are undergoing construction at Romanian Port of Galati with the collaboration of M/s Damen.
In terms of mutual collaboration in the field of education, there was a time when a large number of Pakistani students were flocking to Romanian universities for educational purposes. This was owing to the good quality and affordable educational opportunities offered by Romanian educational institutions. Owing to certain visa related challenges, this number has gone down in recent years. However, gradually inter-institutional linkages are again picking up pace between educational institutions of Pakistan and Romania. For instance, Romania’s renowned Politehnica 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 Politehnica 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 have also been enhancing their cultural footprint in each other’s social milieu in recent years. Recent manifestations of these in Bucharest were the biggest ever Pakistan FlashMob organized by the Embassy of Pakistan in Bucharest in 2017. Similarly, since last year, the Embassy of Pakistan, Bucharest has been arranging Pakistan Film Festival in Romania. Since 2018, two such festivals have been held in Bucharest. Both the events attracted huge Romanian audience and media coverage. The film festival has now 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 center of South Asia. In July 2018, the Embassy of Pakistan in Bucharest organized the first-ever Pakistan Golf Cup in Bucharest. On 27 July 2019, the Embassy organized Pakistan Mango festival at ParkLake Shopping Center in Bucharest.
The story of Pakistan – Romania historic relations would be incomplete without reference to the vibrant Pakistani diaspora resident in Romania. Though, a relatively small community of around 150-200 individuals, Pakistani diaspora in Romania is a law abiding, hardworking, professional and enterprising group. Many of these have married in Romania and are happily residing along with their families in Romania for decades.
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.
Embassy of Pakistan,