Ambassador of Romania talks to Centreline and DNA
Ansar Mahmood Bhatti
How would you describe bilateral relations between Pakistan and Romania in the fields of politics; trade and culture?
Romania and Pakistan have established diplomatic relations in 1964, we have had uninterrupted diplomatic ties for over 50 years, during which my country has contributed to the development of Pakistani economy by building cement factories in Labelled and Kohat, refineries in Karachi, tractor assembly factory near Islamabad and many other projects in various fields.
We have tradition, we have many success stories, we have all the necessary ingredients to reset our economic cooperation to a much higher level that it is right now. As the ambassador of Romania in Pakistan, I will put high on my agenda laying down the foundation for increasing the people to people contact, work system so that our expertise in the fields like construction, infrastructure, insurance, banking and finance, MSE etc. will be transferred to our Pakistani partners. We are going to encourage Romanian businessmen to invest in Pakistan and we will support the process of training young Pakistani in Romania.
Bilateral political relations between Romania and Pakistan are from cordial to excellent. An important number of high level visits on both sides have given impetus to these relations.
We aim to expand our bilateral political dialogue and keep in mind that the consultations between Ministries of Foreign Affairs are becoming instrumental in promoting and supporting the mutually beneficial items on our common agenda, as well as in preparing high level contacts.
The real potential of parliamentary relations between Romania and Pakistan demands more frequent contacts at the different level (Parliament or Senate), in order to identify and employ all the resources available for promoting and developing the cooperation in the political, economic, trade, education, defence, cultural fields, as well as, fighting against terrorism and extremism.
The very existence of the Romanian and Pakistani parliamentary friendship groups is important to continue parliamentary contacts at all levels with Pakistan, especially to the political-diplomatic dialogue between both Parliaments.
The economic and trade relations between both countries have been growing for the last decades and Romania is an important trading partner of Pakistan. Both countries have been enjoying historical friendship and traditional cooperation in many fields for the past many years but there is a need to enhance trade volume between booth countries. Our main priority is to increase and diversify the commercial exchanges between Romania and Pakistan, in a balanced manner for exports and imports.
- Can you share with us initiatives that you have taken to improve friendly relations between the two countries?
Nowadays, there is a strong need to strengthen the international economic cooperation and, simultaneously, to reconstruct the traditional relationship with the old friends, Pakistan among them. We expect confidently and with much hope that the economic ties between Romania and Pakistan will deepen and diversify in the years ahead. The real potential of the two countries is huge and we should take full benefit of the already identified areas of complementarily of the two economies.
Besides the bilateral cooperation through mutual investments, we are also interested to find options of working together on the third markets where, Romania and Pakistan might conjugate their resources and energies in the most constructive way. This is, unfortunately, a domain which had been somehow neglected lately because of focusing on the internal reconstruction of economy. Romania and Pakistan do have common areas of interest both geographically (Near East, Northern Africa etc.) and thematically (the common interest of developing sectors as IT and communications, civil constructions and infrastructure, agriculture etc.).
Our priorities, bilaterally, but also at EU level, are to support the democratic evolution of Pakistan, to intensify commercial trade and investments, and to consolidate regional stability, with special focus on the situation in Afghanistan.
I am fully aware that the huge potential of our bilateral relations demands more frequent contacts at the government level, in order to identify and employ all the resources available for promoting and developing our cooperation in the political, economic, trade, energy, culture, education, defence fields.
I believe that the bilateral political dialogue is ripe enough to accommodate periodical exchanges of views and assessments on regional stability and security issues, related mainly to the strategies embraced by our governments that aim at managing and solving the frozen conflict and at ensuring a balanced regional development with a special emphasis on Afghanistan.
I am interested in continuing to update and modernize the bilateral framework, taking into account that Romania is a member of the EU.
Romanian companies could be involved in development project in Pakistan by supplying equipment and other components. Our companies have the capacity and technical expertise to cooperate in areas such as oil and gas exploration and extraction, petrochemical refining facilities, tractors and farm equipment, training aircraft for military pilots, helicopter maintenances, security and surveillances systems, construction of high power lines, equipment for power plants, assembly of trucks and motor vehicles.
There is a big interest in developing cooperation in the education and culture sector shown by Romanian and Pakistani institutes. I hope that the number and the diversity of the cultural exchanges between our both countries will increase in the future, for a better reciprocal understanding, strengthening our traditional friendship and enhancing the people contacts.
- Can you tell us about the cultural exchange and the revival of Scholarship programme with Pakistan because in the past Romania used to invite Pakistani students?
In education sector, there are a strengthening connection between universities from Romania and Pakistan and over 200 Pakistani students are currently studying in Romania.
Till 2010, in the framework of Agreement of Cooperation in the fields of education, culture, science and technology between the Government of Romania and the Government of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Romanian side had offered annually a number of scholarships to Pakistani students for postgraduate studies in the fields of interest for the Pakistani side.
Since 2011, in the framework of “Study in Romania” Programme, the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the Public, Cultural and Scientific Diplomacy Directorate, in cooperating with Ministry of National Education has facilitated educational exchanges and has ensured foreign citizens the possibility to study in Romania.
The Romania side is negotiating with the Pakistani side to sign a new Programme of Cooperation in the fields of education, science, culture, mass-media, youth and sports between the Government of Romania and the Government of Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
A separate indication of the the importance the two countries attaché to the cultural cooperation is the Monument dedicated to the National Poets of Romania, Mihail EMINESCU, and of Pakistan, Allama IQBAL, which was constructed in 2004 in Islamabad.
- What do you think about business climate in Pakistan? If you could tell us something more about businessmen exchange programs?
Pakistan made some progress towards the ease of doing business for small and medium-sized enterprises and these improvements provide important building blocks for a more efficient business environment that would encourage local entrepreneurs in the country.
Sharing Romanian experience I would say that the corporate sector is the backbone of the economy and a major driver of economic growth of any country especially a developing country like Pakistan. In the absence of a vibrant and dynamic corporate sector, it is an uphill task to achieve a fast track economic and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in a country. Corporate sector is the most important pillar and a key driver of the development of the national economy.
An effective implementation of an economic revival plan alongside aggressive pursuance of appropriate strategies for all the major sectors of the economy is critical to achieve rapid economic growth.
In this context, the Embassy of Romania in Pakistan will consider identifying opportunities to implement such bilateral projects to support business communities in Pakistan.
- People to people contacts are yet another field that can help bring people of both countries closer. How do you view this and how can we increase people to people cooperation between the two countries?
Culture is an area where we can cooperate with each other in order to increase people to people cooperation between the two countries . I genuinely believe Pakistan has a rich cultural background and so does Romania, therefore, multiplying the number of contacts in this particular area shall be high on my agenda during my stay.
Bilateral cultural relations are playing an important role in the development of friendship and partnership between the peoples of Romania and Pakistan. I believe that cultural ties thanks to historical relations and the warm feelings that the two peoples share for each other create a huge potential for greater collaboration. We are also convinced that future holds even better prospects as regards cultural relations between Romania and Pakistan.
Also Pakistan Universities having joint ventures with Romanian counter-parts will help promote interaction between the young generations in Pakistan and Romania.
- As we know friendship forums and consulates do contribute towards promotion of bilateral relations. Do you agree?
Honorary Consulates, forums and friendship associations have a special role to play in promoting bilateral relations between two countries. Romania has 4 Honorary Consulates in Pakistan (in Karachi, Faisalabad, Lahore and Peshawar).
The Embassy has consistently opened its door to support the work of Honorary Consulates and Associations and Forum. I make an appeal in this way to emphasize once again that I am here for a result-oriented activity, ready to support any initiative that will allow an enhanced level of political, economic, cultural relations between Romania and Pakistan. It seems that for now our Honorary Consulate in Karachi understands better the spirit of these concepts and has performed quite well in promoting the ties between the two countries.
These institutions can feed the substance of the relationship between the two countries by engaging in the organization of business forums, cultural exhibitions, and delegation exchanges.
There are also an important component of the common strategy of developing the economic relations between the two countries. These institutions have an important role in promoting the interest of commerce and Pakistani investments in the emergent market of Romania. It is also important for supporting the measures to improve the conditions for bilateral trade and investments.
Their main missions are:
– A better understanding by the Romanian side of the business climate in Pakistan;
– A deeper understanding of the perspective of the Pakistani business environment toward the prospects of investing in the state and private sector in Romania;
– Promoting the legal aspects which affect in one way or another the availability or capacity of Pakistani companies to invest or to do transactions in Romania. ;
– Cooperates with other entities which support the development of Romania-Pakistan economic relations.
I am very confident that the newly inaugurated Romania Pakistan Forum (PRF) will rapidly grow into an efficient machine able to achieve important goals in the bilateral relation.
- Romania is key EU country but still out of Schengen regime. When will become part of this visa regime?
We are optimistic that Romania will join Schengen rather soon. We expect to be a phased entrance, first airports, and then the land border. Our country has managed to meet all technical requests and has staff ready to apply the Schengen rules.
I appreciate that the Schengen zone will be stronger and safer with Romania part of the organization.
- Your impressions about Pakistan and security situation here?
Pakistan is a beautiful country with a dynamic and entrepreneurial population and vibrant cultural diversity.
I am pleased to note that tremendous efforts have been made and are still being made to improve the security situation in Pakistan, which is first and foremost for the sake of Pakistani people. Everybody should know and understand that, as compared to the past, the security situation in Pakistan is much better and I am confident that further improvements are to be expected in the immediate future.
I, as the Romanian Ambassador in Pakistan, have developed a true affection for this country, my second home for a while, and wish with all my heart that Pakistan will enjoy stability, peace and prosperity the Pakistani people so much deserve.
God bless you all !