The ninth-largest country in the world, Kazakhstan has made its geographic location work to its advantage, revitalising its role on the traditional Silk Route through the development of the Western Europe-Western China highway and other multinational projects.
Located between the trading powerhouses of China and Europe, Kazakhstan’s multivector foreign policy has guided both its diplomacy and trade, and with great success.
Kazakhstan’s foreign policy is predetermined by features unique to its geographic position. Therefore, Kazakhstan is following a multilevel and multidimensional foreign policy continuing with its balanced foreign policy. Through this, Kazakhstan has established good relations with all its neighbours—Russia, China and Central Asian countries—as well as strategic relations with United States, and is promoting its partnerships with the EU, Asian countries and the Muslim world.
Just a few days ago, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan met his counterpart President Xi Jinping of China, who visited Kazakhstan on Sept. 6-8 after both presidents attended the G20 summit in St. Petersburg. Nazarbayev told visiting President Xi that his country hopes to ride China’s rapid economic development.
“When China fares well, Kazakhstan will fare well,” Nazarbayev said, adding that Kazakhstan is willing to work with China to enhance coordination on development strategies and pursue common development.
Briefing Nazarbayev about China’s economic development, Xi said China enjoys sound growth momentum and will push forward economic restructuring and further increase the quality of its economic development.
“China has confidence in maintaining a sustained and healthy economic development,” he said.
The two countries, they said, should embrace a far-sighted vision, further expand practical cooperation and lift their comprehensive strategic partnership to higher levels.
It was underlined during the visit that cooperation between China and Kazakhstan enjoys broad prospects and will certainly bring tangible benefits to the two countries’ peoples.
During a meeting with Kazakh Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov, Xi said cooperation between the two countries enjoys a natural advantage of complementarity and a friendly political basis, and has always followed the principle of equality, mutual benefit and win-win results.
“Both sides should effectively implement the mid- and long-term plan for China-Kazakhstan economic and trade cooperation, and comprehensively improve the scale and quality of trade and investment cooperation,” Xi said.
Both sides should also complete the expansion of the China-Kazakhstan crude oil pipeline in accordance with its schedule and accelerate the C-line construction of the China-Central Asia gas pipeline, Xi said.
For his part, Akhmetov said the Chinese economy is maintaining a sound development momentum, which provides more opportunities for bilateral cooperation.
“The Kazakh government will work toward the target of $40 billion in two-way trade in 2015,” he said.
Xi’s visit is being called a success as the two sides jointly charted a course for the future development of bilateral ties and signed a host of important documents.
Kazakhstan-China relations have enjoyed rapid development since they established diplomatic ties 21 years ago, and the two countries have forged a comprehensive strategic partnership.
It is also not by chance that the Chinese president outlined China’s foreign policy vision towards Central Asia while delivering a speech at Nazarbayev University in Astana.
Kazakhstan’s role as a regional leader in Central Asia and as an influential player in global geopolitics has steadily expanded since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The direction of the country’s foreign policy as well as how that policy is formulated and implemented are therefore of increasing relevance to other actors on the geopolitical stage.
Kazakhstan was one of four nuclear weapon states to emerge from the Soviet Union, but, ironically, close cooperation with the U.S. in the elimination of its nuclear arsenal was one of the key factors paving the way for the country to acquire the status of a regional leader in Central Asia. By teaming with the US to dismantle its nuclear capacity and also using the assistance of Russia, Kazakhstan pursued a polciy of multi-vector engagement which bore fruit.
According to Nazarbayev, “multi-vector foreign policy means the development of predictable and friendly relationships with all countries. Kazakhstan, due to its regional and economic potential, should not be concerned only about national issues. Through multivector policy, we can eliminate any manifestation of threats to the security of Kazakhstan.”
Astana’s approach to relations across every border of the country has allowed it to grow as a connector between East and West. In achieving this goal, Kazakhstan developed and successfully implemented its three-year Path to Europe programme in 2008-11 and the country has hosted international events such as the fourth Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, a significant platform for international inter-religious dialogue, in Astana in May 2012. It also hosts the Secretariat of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), which is considered a unique intergovernmental platform for dialogue and consultation, decision-making and action by consensus on security issues in Asia.
Now, 22 years since gaining independence, Kazakhstan is maintaining equally good relations with its two large neighbours, Russia and China, as well as the US and the West in general. Its policy has yielded results in the oil and gas sector, where companies from the US, Russia, China and Europe are present at all major fields, and in the multidimensional directions of oil export pipelines out of the country. Kazakhstan also enjoys strong and rapidly developing political and economic ties with Turkey. Kazakhstan formed a customs union with Russia and Belarus which is due to be transformed into Eurasian Economic Union by 2015.
As an active member of the UN and other international and regional organisations, Kazakhstan is becoming the centre of focus for the regional offices of international organisations. In this regard, Kazakhstan is pushing for Almaty to become a hub for multilateral diplomacy under the UN in Almaty.
Kazakhstan is a member Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). It is an active participant in NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme.
Furthermore, Kazakhstan is fostering regional economic and social integration through the framework of the CIS, the Eurasian Economic Association, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), an intergovernmental mutual-security organisation founded in 2001 by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
On December 1, 2007, Kazakhstan had been chosen to chair the OSCE for the year 2010. Kazakhstan was elected a member of the UN Human Rights Council for the first time on November 12, 2012 and has now won the right to host EXPO 2017, which will take place in its young capital Astana.
Thanks to peaceful foreign policy, international initiatives, strict adherence to obligations and participation in regional and world affairs, Kazakhstan has earned the trust and respect of foreign partners Russia, China, the US, the EU and Central Asian states as well as Asian and Arabic countries.
Kazakhstan’s first two decades of modern history have been underlined by political stability and comfortable foreign relations, all based in greater part on its wise choice of multi-vector foreign policy. The country is now moving toward greater regional and international integration. Given its history, geography, the structure of economy, and the recent success in fostering international relations across the board, it has every reason to continue along this path.