‘Economy first, politics second’ has always been the motto of independent Kazakhstan but sometimes you cannot have the first without the latter. The political climate must allow for economic growth. President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s strategy Kazakhstan 2050 is in fact a new political course that sets the goal of the country making it into the top 30 countries in the world by 2050.
Over the first 20 years of its independence, Kazakhstan has managed to create an atmosphere of stability that gives confidence to its numerous investors, as can be evidenced by the large amount of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country, totaling US$170 billion at last count. However, Kazakhstan is not an isolated entity cushioned in its own microclimate. Kazakhstan has matured as a full-fledged participant of international processes and effectively managed to create favourable external conditions for its development. The question now lingers on how to utilize these conditions to the most benefit to this country and to the wider region.
In politics, one of the most valuable qualities is predictability. And according the Strategy Kazakhstan 2050, unveiled by President Nursultan Nazarbayev in December 2012, some of the focal points are consistent and predictable foreign policy and the promotion of national interests and strengthening of regional and global security. In essence, Kazakhstan, solidifying its role as a reliable partner, wants to share with its neighbours a vision of a friendly and cooperative region.
Kazakhstan’s foreign policy priorities remain unchanged – developing of partnerships with Russia, China, Central Asian countries as well as the USA, European Union and Asian nations. Undoubtedly, the Custom Union and the Common Economic Space will continue in their development and improve the economic incentives for the parties involved. Further on, the country’s next aim is to create a Eurasian Economic Union in consensus with its partners whilst respecting full political sovereignty.
But before moving on to the continental scale, work needs to be done at a regional level. The Kazakhstan president’s initiative to convene a Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), put forward in 1992, has seen CICA grow into an organization with 24 member countries that have a combined population exceeding 3 billion people. CICA is a critical element of Kazakhstan’s security.
Kazakhstan’s balanced foreign policy means the country is developing friendly and predictable relations with all states and playing a significant role in the global agenda that represents the interests of the country. Upholding the principles of peace and understanding, Kazakhstan hopes for a peaceful future.
Nevertheless, the international situation and geopolitical environment has changed dramatically.
In some circumstances this has not been a favourable change. There is a giant arc of instability stretching from Northern Africa and the Middle East to North-East Asia. Given these changes, the role of the regional security mechanisms has increased and organizations such as the UN, OSCE, NATO, CSTO, SCO, CICA and others have gained greater importance.
New national security threats have appeared in Central Asia. Just as Kazakhstan has sought to modernize its domestic policy, it needs to consider the impact of regional and global changes and modernize its foreign policy.
The priorities of such modernization are also outlined in the presidential strategy: 1 Strengthen regional and national security by all means; 2. Actively develop economic and trade diplomacy; 3. Intensify international cooperation in cultural, humanitarian, scientific and education fields; 4. Enhance the legal protection of our citizens and their personal, family and business interests abroad.
While the foreign policy promotion of the national interests is based purely on pragmatic principles, the challenges faced are sometimes abstract and personal. In order to move these ties from the chaotic realm of interpersonal relations, ties and guarantees need to be placed at an institutional level.
Strengthening regional security means identifying new threats, cooperating to eradicate the prerequisites of conflict situations in the region as much as possible. Diplomatic ties that Kazakhstan has set up with its neighbours and partners will be developed further and strengthened so as to allow for honest discussions on this topic. Kazakhstan fully understands its responsibility for regional security and is making its own contribution to the stabilization, and creating conditions for sustainable development, of Central Asia. Undoubtedly, issues important for the whole region will be high on the agenda for the talks President Nazarbayev will hold with his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, as he pays an official visit to Tashkent on June 13-14.
Perhaps, the best way to stabilize the region is through intra-regional integration. In doing this, countries of the region can decrease the conflict potential of Central Asia, resolve vital social and economic problems and address water, energy and other contradictory issues. This means specifically an exchange of ideas and culture as well as strengthening its defense capability and military doctrine and engaging in various mechanisms of defensive containment. By developing a national defense model, Kazakhstan will cooperate with various countries and organizations. Kazakhstan will closely interact with its CSTO allies and foster the improvement of potential and military capability of Collective Rapid Reaction Forces.
Together with all interested partners and our neighbours, Kazakhstan will strive for immediate political stabilization and restoration of Afghanistan. Already, close to a thousand Afghan students are studying at universities throughout Kazakhstan who will undoubtedly serve as the initiators of relations between the two countries.
During his speech in December, Mr. Nazarbayev said: “No single country in the world can overcome the contemporary challenges we all face. The essence of my initiative is to unite all efforts to establish a fair and safe world order.” With combined efforts, this envisioned world of peace and harmony can become a reality, one brick at a time.