Pakistan Is My Second Home


Dean of European Ambassadors, Ambassador of Romania talks to Centreline and DNA

Ansar Mahmood Bhatti

Ambassador of Romania Emilian ION gave an exclusive interview to Centreline and DNA on the occasion of Romanian national day. Ambassador Emilian has recently assumed charge of Dean of Europe after departure of the Greek Ambassador. Ambassador ION is now the senior most ambassador among the European diplomatic corps. He has contributed greatly towards the strengthening of relations between Pakistan and Romania. During his tenure Pakistan and Romania have explored a number of avenues while a lot more are in the pipeline. Here are excerpts from his interview, which encompasses a verity of areas including political, trade and economic, cultural as well as diplomatic relations.

You recently celebrated 50 years of Romania, Pakistan bilateral relations. Please share with us some more information?

Before taking up your question please allow me to extend my sincere congratulations to the Pakistani people for the Nobel Peace Prize awarded a few weeks ago to Malala Yousafzai, being only the second Pakistani and youngest ever laureate of this Prize. The prize represents the recognition of the importance of Malala’s symbol at the highest level, as well as an assurance of the International Community to keep supporting Pakistan in all fields.

50 years ago, Romania and Pakistan have officially established diplomatic relations, at Embassy level. It was the start of a partnership which has proven over time that geographical distance and geopolitical differences could not affect what today is a traditional and friendly relationship between the two countries.

I would like to point out just a few historical facts which underline the evolution of the bilateral ties:In the 70’s and 80’s, Pakistan imported Romanian know-how and technology. It is worth mentioning the contribution of Romanian engineers and specialists to the building of the National Oil Refinery in Karachi, and also to an important part of the Pakistani cement industry with the help with Romanian technology (Cement Plants in Kohat, Lasbella, as well as the Saadi – I, Saadi – II and Pakland projects);

There have been a number of high-level visits (Parliamentary, governmental) and also between Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Islamabad and Bucharest.

In the last years, I would like to mention the visit to Pakistan, in September 2011, of a delegation led by the Chairman of the Foreign Policy Commission of the Romanian Senate as well as the visits to Romania of the Additional Secretaries / Ministry of Foreign Affairs (March 2011 and March 2013) and Federal Minister of Commerce (November 2013) and federal ministe for defence proeduction. Let me tell you that I always say about Paksitan that is is my second home.

As Romanian ambassador, if you could share with our readers your efforts that you put in to further expand bilateral relations between the two countries?

As Ambassador of Romania to Pakistan, I used my skill and expertise in order to promote the bilateral relations in all fields, with an emphasis on economic and cultural ties. In this regard, I can mention the following significant points for the evolution, in the last years, of the Pakistan – Romania relations:

The completion of the bilateral legal framework, through the signing of inter-governmental Agreements on Economic cooperation (september 2011) and Defence Cooperation (february 2013). There are two ongoing projects in the pipeline: One, a Protocol to ammend the Agreement on the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments and another, an Agreement between the National News Agencies of the two countries.

The launch, in February 2011, with the assistance of a group of young businessmen from Karachi, of Pakistan – Romania Business Council (PRBC), which is an independent company, created in full compliance with the Pakistani law, to act like a bridge between the business communities of the two countries.

I congratulate PRBC for proving to be a very active platform, by organizing, in the first three years, the visits of two Economic Delegations to Romania, and also by opening a sister company in Bucharest. Punjab, Romania business forum in Lahore is also on the anvil.

The reopening, in 2013, of the Honorary Consulates of Romania in Karachi and Lahore, as well as the opening of two new Honorary Consulates in Faisalabad (also in 2013, being the first of its kind in one of the most important Textile Centers of Pakistan) and Peshawar (in the summer of 2014).

This is the perfect opportunity to address my appreciation to the former Honorary Consuls General in Karachi and Lahore, and to the actual Honorary Consuls General, for their contribution to the development of the bilateral relations between Romania and Pakistan.

Culture has been promoted through various means: especially music – Sufi Qawwali Groups have performed at a number of events organized by our Embassy, as well as by the Embassy of Pakistan in Romania. Also, it is worth mentioning that there is an ongoing cooperation in the field of education: currently 14 Romanian teachers are teaching mathematics in Abdus Salam School of Mathematics in Lahore.

Please tell us more about cultural and education cooperation between the two countries?

There is a big interest in developing cooperation in this sector, shown by some Romanian and Pakistani universities. The Rector of COMSATS Institute of Information and Technology has recently visited Romania, and a number of almost 200 Pakistani students are currently studying in Romania, on Scholarships or on their own expense.

An important role in promoting cultural ties belongs to Pakistan Romania Friendship Association, whose activity I have managed to revive. Through organizing social and cultural activities, PRFA was and will continue to be a good platform to bring Romania and Pakistan closer together and the Association will be the spearhead of cultural activities in the future.

A separate point that shows the importance the two countries attach to the cultural cooperation is the Monument dedicated to the National Poets of Pakistan, Allama Iqbal, and of Romania, Mihai Eminescu, which was constructed in 2004, in Islamabad, near Kulsoom International Hospital.

Political and economic cooperation is also picking up between Pakistan and Romania. Please share with us some of salient features?

Pakistan is a very important partner in the region for my country, Romania, the 7th largest member of the European Union.

I am very convinced that the near round of political consultations at high level between our Ministries of Foreign Affairs will assess the evolution and generate a Road Map, with concrete actions, that will aim towards further consolidating and promoting the bilateral relations between our countries, in the political, economic, cultural and all other fields of common interest.

In my opinion, the current volume of trade does not reflect the real economic potential of our countries and both Embassies in Islamabad and Bucharest have to do more in this regard.

In the end, I would like to thank again to the Foreign Secretary, all officials of the Government of Pakistan and all personalities who have given and are still giving their contribution to creating and developing what today is a very close and friendly bilateral relation between Romania and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Your impressions about Pakistan?

Let me share with you my heartfelt feelings about Pakistan and its wonderful people. Pakistan indeed is a great country gifted with all sorts of resources. This country has the potential to become a regional power. I am saying this because I have seen in Pakistani people a desire and will to take their country to pinnacles of development. People here are very friendly, loving and caring. I wish that Pakistan makes progress in fields. I am confident and bilateral relations will touch new heights with induction of new Romanian president.