Ambassador of Romania Talks to DNA and Centreline
Ansar Mahmood Bhatti
Emilian ION is Ambassador of Romania to Pakistan since 2009. He started off as Economist in Ministry of Chemical Industry in 1971-1974. In 1974-79 he served as Attaché Middle East Department in Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). His other assignments include 3rd Secretary Embassy of Romania to Bangui 1979-80, Charge de Affaires to Nouakchott 1988-1990, First Secretary, Counselor to Rabat 1994-97, Minister Counselor Rabat, Charge de Affaires Rabat 1997-99, Deputy Director Africa MFA 1999-2000, Charge de Affaires Baghdad 2000-2002, Charge de Affaires Nairobi 2002-2006, Head of Africa Section, Middle East MFA 2006-2008, Deputy Director Middle East and Africa MFA 2008-2009. He gave an exclusive interview to Centreline and Diplomatic News Agency (DNA) on the occasion of National Day of Romania which was celebrated on November 29, 2013. Here are excerpts from his interview.
How would you describe bilateral relations between Pakistan and Romania in the fields of politics; trade and economy?
During my four and half year tenure, I have tried my best to promote relations between the two countries. Let me tell you that there is huge scope for bilateral cooperation between Romania and Pakistan and now it is our responsibility to exploit this scope to the benefit of both nations. I am happy that our relations are now well on track.
Political consultations between the two countries are also going on with a view to finding more common grounds of cooperation. The Pakistani additional secretary Europe discussed mutual cooperation during her last visit to the region. Political consultations are very important for promotion and development of bilateral relations. It is good occasion to assess what we have done so far and what we can do in the future in various fields. Because of geo political location as well as economic potential Pakistan has become an important country. Romania is Europe’s 7th largest country therefore it can help Pakistan have access to European markets.
There is an invitation for Sartaj Aziz from our side to visit Romania. Also there is a will from the Romanian side to organize a visit of the Romanian foreign minister to Pakistan. We believe foreign ministers can play a big role in terms of promotion of relations. Since economy is my field therefore I would specifically like to increase cooperation in this filed especially.
As you know we have already opened honoray consulates in Lahore, Karachi and Faisalabad while we are in the process of opening a consulate in Peshawar as well. In Karachi we have Tariq Saud a well know businessman who has recently been appointed Chairman of APTMA. Similarly in Faisalabad we have Faiq Jawed who happens to be a dynamic businessman. In Lahore artist Usman Pirzada has been appointed. This particular appointment would surely enhance cultural relations.
Punjab is very important province therefore I would now like to open Pakistan Romania Trade Council in Lahore led by a leading businessman. Our cooperation in education has also increased and there are of Romanian mathematics teachers in Lahore.
Likewise in trade and economy our interaction has increased. Pakistan and Romania signed a number of Agreements on Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation .The Agreement that was signed last year is promoting cooperation between the two countries in the fields of industry, agriculture, forestry, energy sector, research and development, telecommunication, computing & informatics, transport, logistics, environment protection, tourism, investment promotion, SME cooperation, education, health care and science and technology. The current volume of trade between us does not reflect the actual potential of both counties base in past we had more trade activity. We built an oil refinery and cement plant in Karachi.
Regarding GSP plus for Pakistan I think most of the EU members countries are in favour of Pakistan. Now the matter is to be decided by the European Parliament. The Pakistan minister Khurram Dastagir visited Bucharest a week ago to muster Romanian support. I think he had fruitful interactions with Romanian foreign minister and other officials.
Pakistan and Romania defence agreement signed in February 2013 adding it will boost bilateral relations between the two countries. Romania is a key country within the European Union and accords due importance to its relations with Pakistan.
This agreement will go a long way in strengthening relations between the two friendly countries. A number of other initiatives were also being looked into with a view to giving new dimensions to bilateral ties.
There is also need to strengthen the relation between the Chambers of Commerce of both the countries, so that in long-run the chambers could exchange information on economic and commercial matters and identify possible joint venture partners in their respective countries. The bilateral trade volume now stands at 200 millions USD per annum.
Please tell us something about Pakistan Romania Business Council. Are you satisfied with it so far performance?
As you know we launched Pakistan Romania Business Council. Establishment of Business Council is augmenting our efforts for promotion of business relations between the two counties. Let me tell you the Business Council is led by dynamic businessmen of Karachi who genuinely want to promote business ties between two friendly countries.
Some of the members of the Council have already opened offices in Romania and started exporting various items to Romania. Especially Pakistani mangoes are very well received in Romania because of climatic conditions we do not grow these produces.
Romania can help Pakistan in energy sector as well and for this purpose various options are already under consideration. We plan to build a 150 MW hydro power plant in Pakistan. Similarly there are certain other areas where both Romania and Pakistan can benefit from each other’s experience such as textile, leather products and surgical instruments etc. I have visited many cities of Pakistan including Lahore, Karachi, Sialkot, Faisalabad etc and met with businessmen there. I asked them to go to Romania and invest there because Romania offers conducive business environment to businessmen. Likewise, I also talked to some Romanian businessmen to come to Pakistan and invest here. I think Pakistan has a lot to offer to business people. As I mentioned in the beginning potential is there so it is up to us how we exploit this potential.
How would you describe cultural relations between Pakistan and Romania?
As you know the Romania embassy with the help of Capital Development Authority had built a monument in Blue Area Islamabad. The monument was built to pay homage to Pakistani national poet Allama Iqbal and Romanian national poet Mihai Eninescu
There is famous Pakistani designer Aqeel and Nabeel who have ventured to undertake joint businesses with Romanian counterpart. I have seen he produced some good quality suits with joint collaboration. The suits carry tag of ‘Made in Romania’, which I think is a very good development and I hope this company will explore more avenues of cooperation.
Pakistan-Romania Friendship Association has been re-activated. How would describe this initiative and do you think this association will help contribute toward strengthening of relations between Pakistan and Romania?
The re-activation of Pakistan-Romania Friendship Association (PRFA) is yet another step towards strengthening of cultural relations between the two countries. I do hope the newly-formed association shall do its best to develop and strengthen relations between Romania and Pakistan in many fields of common interest. As you know some new faces have been introduced in the association including well known Pakistani businessmen-cum journalist Zafar Bakhtawari. Likewise Ms. Huda Fazl a leading educationist of the country has also been included in the association. So, I am confident the association will perform even better after its reorganization.
Pakistan Romania Friendship Association has to play a vital role towards promoting economic development and facilitate cooperation amongst business communities of Romania and Pakistan. It will be my endeavor to strengthen the Association with various business opportunities from various sectors of the economy, so that we are equipped to serve the business community in Pakistan and Romania. Here I also would like to recognize services of all sitting and previous members who undoubtedly had put in their best efforts to promote relations between the two countries. I am equally indebted to Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for extending its support and making this ventures a success.
What are your impressions about Pakistan and Pakistani people?
I would say, Pakistanis are a great nation and have great potential. They are hospitable; kind and cooperative. I must commend your political and military leadership the way they have been dealing with the terrorism problem. We duly recognize sacrifices rendered in this process and would like to see the international community extending more and more assistance to Pakistan. Pakistan has also a role to play in the region as well. In the end I would again reiterate my commitment and desire to promote and strengthen Romania-Pakistan relations.