UK Prime Minister’s Visit to Boost Kazakh-British Ties

The visit of British Prime Minister David Cameron to Kazakhstan on June 30 – July 1 comes at the invitation of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, extended during the London Olympics in 2012. This is the British prime minister’s first visit to our country and to Central Asia in general in the history of bilateral relations between the UK and Kazakhstan.

In Strategy Kazakhstan 2050, President Nazarbayev noted, “Over the years of independence, Kazakhstan has taken its place as an equal member of international processes…” The people of our country have now become accustomed to visits by distinguished guests from near and far. This visit is special, however, because Prime Minister Cameron visits from one of the most developed countries in the world and mutually beneficial cooperation with the UK will contribute to the more rapid development of the economy of Kazakhstan.

The UK has significant political, scientific, industrial and military influence in the global system of international relations. For example, the UK has a good reputation and influence within international organisations such as the UN, the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe), the EU, the G8 and the G20, among others. The UK, as one of the world’s major nuclear powers, guaranteed Kazakhstan’s nuclear safety in connection with its accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons at the OSCE Summit in Budapest on December 5, 1994, along with Russia and the United States and later China and France.

The UK recognised Kazakhstan’s independence on January 1, 1992 and established diplomatic relations with Kazakhstan on January 19, 1992. Since then, Kazakhstan, rich in energy resources, has had close economic, political, cultural and educational partnerships with the UK, which grow and develop year by year.

By visiting Kazakhstan, David Cameron is undoubtedly contributing to the political image of our country, demonstrating a recognition of the positive contribution of Kazakhstan to the development of the world economy as well as to the strengthening of global and regional security.

The Independent has written that, “The British government calls Kazakhstan one of the ‘20 global emerging powers’ and makes no secret of the fact that the strengthening of bilateral relations between the states, particularly in the areas of trade, energy and security, is an important factor. Since Kazakhstan is among the 20 largest oil producers in the world and has shown continuous economic growth, it is not surprising that, along with the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, Cameron puts on the agenda the theme of cooperation as well.” Cameron, according to the BBC, considers Kazakhstan and Central Asia one of “the fastest growing regions in the world” and believes that strengthening ties with our country will further improve the UK’s position in the world community. To achieve this goal, he has appointed a Member of Parliament, Charles Hendry, as a trade representative to Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.

Based on this, it seems the prime minister’s visit will focus on issues of the bilateral strategic relationship, the development of the two countries in the field of economy and trade, promoting mutual investments and the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan.

Mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries is developing in the oil, gas and mining sectors of Kazakhstan. British investment in those sectors of Kazakhstan’s economy is a key source of energy imports to the UK. Clearly, the workshops planned to be held in Atyrau with representatives of British oil and gas companies on the Caspian shelf during the visit are intended to develop activities in this sector further.

During the visit, it is also planned to sign an agreement on establishing a geological research centre in Atyrau with the Rio Tinto company. Prime Minister Cameron will also hold official meetings in Astana to discuss the further development of mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation and regional security.

Kazakhstan is an important partner for the UK in the international coalition in Afghanistan. By the end of 2012, there were 9,000 British soldiers in Afghanistan. Kazakhstan will play a significant role during their withdrawal in 2014, when the UN International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan pulls out.

In February 2012, during the visit of British Defence Minister Philip Hammond to Kazakhstan, the two states signed a bilateral agreement on cooperation while ensuring the transit of military equipment and personnel across Kazakhstan’s territory in connection with the participation of the UK in international efforts to stabilise and rebuild Afghanistan. In June 2013, Kazakhstan’s parliament ratified an agreement on the transit of British troops and military cargo through Kazakhstan’s territory. Similar agreements have come into force with other countries that have troops in Afghanistan.

There is active cooperation in the military and military technology fields. In particular, British troops are taking part in the annual peacekeeping exercise Steppe Eagle, as part of military cooperation between Kazakhstan and NATO. Military training, visits of delegations and the exchange of experience between military institutions of higher education in both countries are underway.

The policy of mutually beneficial cooperation between Kazakhstan and the UK is conducted in accordance with the provisions of Strategy Kazakhstan 2050, in which President Nazarbayev expressed the idea that “In the 21st century, Kazakhstan should become a bridge for dialogue and interaction between East and West…”. It’s safe to say that the visit of Prime Minister Cameron will benefit the two countries and peoples and will provide an opportunity to discuss the further development of partnership and cooperation in our mutual interest.

The author is Acting Head of the Institute of Statehood, Security Problems and Development of the Nazarbayev Center.

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