Defining the Contours of Kazakhstan’s Diplomacy up to 2020

Erlan IdrissovDuring the two decades of Kazakhstan’s independence and under the leadership of its first President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the country has achieved major breakthroughs in its political and socioeconomic development. The country has achieved substantial foreign policy results in the international arena and has become a reputable and responsible member of the global community.

Kazakhstan’s diplomacy has established a reliable system of relations with international organisations and all countries of the world. The country participates on equal terms and contributes to the resolution of regional and global problems of the modern world order. Today, Astana’s foreign activity encompasses all spheres of national interests and the most urgent international problems.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is continuing a gradual implementation of strategic foreign policy tasks and priorities in all directions, set forth by the President of Kazakhstan. In this way, during the last year alone, around 170 international events with the participation of the head of state took place in Kazakhstan and abroad.

We have held productive negotiations with our neighbours Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

In November 2013, we signed a new Agreement on Good Neighbourliness and Alliance in the 21st Century with the Russian Federation that encompasses the whole specter of our bilateral relations.

During the first visit of the new President of China Xi Jingpin to Astana, we signed agreements on cooperation in the areas of energy, finance and investments worth more than $35 billion. We reached an important consensus on resuming the work on the water resources management project agreement in 2015.

The partnership with the United States on a wide range of bilateral and global issues continues developing on a steady path.

We have also reached a new landmark in the European direction. Our head of state made his first visit to the Principality of Monaco. Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron made a state visit to Kazakhstan, the first visit by a British Prime Minister in the history of our countries’ bilateral relations. The visit boosted our relations to the level of strategic partnership. The head of Spain’s government Mariano Rajoy has also paid his first official visit to Astana.

The visit of the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso to Kazakhstan in June 2013 provided a great impetus to strengthen large-scale relations with the European Union (EU), which is the largest trade-economic and investment partner of our country.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also intensified its efforts in the Asian direction. This relates not only to our traditional partners Japan, the Republic of Korea, India and Malaysia, but also other countries of the region. As such, during the first visit to Astana of the President of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, agreements in the areas of trade, economy and technology with the participation of public and private enterprises and financial institutions were signed.

We have paid great attention to multilateral diplomacy and cooperation within UN, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and other international organisations. We place special emphasis on further cooperation with partners within the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, where chairmanship is passing from Turkey to China for the period of 2014-2016.

From the time of its establishment, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stressed the importance of the facilitation of the development of the state and society. It was diplomatic means through which Kazakhstan ensured a favourable external environment for implementation of large-scale political, economic and social reforms within the country.

This process passed through several stages. In each stage, the head of state laid out foreign policy priorities, defining a vision of the place and role of Kazakhstan in the modern world, strategic principles, goals and tasks of the foreign policy of our country.

One of the essential events of 2014 became the approval by the head of state of the Foreign Policy Concept for the period 2014-2020.

This document was elaborated in accordance with the Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy’s foreign policy settings. The difference in content between the new concept and the previous ones is natural. This distinction is explained by new modernisation priorities set by President Nazarbayev that have increased the role and influence of Kazakhstan, as well as the appearance of fundamentally new trends in modern world politics and economics.

While developing the concept, there were two tasks. On one hand, it was important to maintain the continuity of the foreign policy of Kazakhstan. On the other hand, it was essential to demonstrate its adequacy in relation to the changing conditions of the modern world.

Hopefully, we have managed to successfully accomplish these tasks. Current foreign policy priority directions reflect both fundamental provisions and new imperatives raised by modern realities.

Making the concept available to the public is another novelty. There were two important elements in explaining the concept: to define clear and concrete guidelines for Kazakhstan’s diplomacy and, more importantly, to help our society and foreign partners get a better insight into the course and priorities of the foreign policy of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Better understanding leads to better trust and a clear and predictable counterpart becomes the closest partner.

Another distinctive feature of the concept is its conciseness. This was meant to synthesise major issues and facilitate understanding of the information. The document represents a key element of the philosophy of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy for the next seven years.

The concept passed through the process of coordination with all related governmental bodies as stipulated by the legislation of Kazakhstan. During its preparation, recommendations from Kazakhstan’s expert community, as well as public comments and evaluations of various international issues were taken into account. Taking this chance, I would like to express gratitude to those who participated in the discussions and development of the concept.

The principles of multi-vector and balanced foreign policy promulgated by the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan at the dawn of Kazakhstan’s independence have proven their creditworthiness and have become the single option basis of collaboration with the international community.

At the same time, the current version of the concept emphasises modern realities in international politics by stating the importance of pragmatic foreign policy on the basis of mutual benefit and firm protection of national interests. The same emphasis was laid out in the recent state-of-the-nation address of President Nazarbayev to the People, Kazakhstan’s Way – 2050: Common Aim, Common Interests, Common Future.” This way is, in fact, the only option in the modern world of globalisation and the negative effects of the word finance-economic crisis, the exacerbation of humanity’s problems and the contraction of renewable energy resources.

Kazakhstan is an active participant in the world community and, by all means, is dependent on the processes occurring within the community. Taking into account this relationship, Kazakhstan must maintain a pragmatic approach. As someone put it, there are no constant enemies as there are no constant allies in politics, but only constant interests. This aphorism has not lost its relevance in relation to modern international realities.

Along with the traditional aims of the foreign policy laid out in the concept, such as “ensuring national security, defence and sovereignty,” there are other important elements of foreign policy.

In particular, the document underlines a necessity to create favourable external conditions for successful implementation of the Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy, increasing life standards for the population, as well as strengthening the rule of law, democratic institutions and human rights protections. Previously, a stronger emphasis was placed on protection of the state’s interests. By contrast, nowadays, the accent is being shifted towards the needs of the people. In achieving this task, we will also provide wide support to Kazakh diasporas and the Kazakh language abroad.

Kazakhstan is eager to occupy its honourable position in the highly competitive environment of the world community. That is why among the country’s new goals, we can see a desire for a green path of development and entering the list of the world’s top 30 most developed countries. A quality preparation for and holding of the international exhibition EXPO 2017 in Astana with the theme “Future Energy,” as well as introducing cutting-edge ecological and energy-saving standards and technologies will become major components of reaching these goals.

Countries succeed when they harness their national potential. That is why maintaining the unique national-cultural identities of Kazakhs and other ethnic groups of our country and following our own path of development is one of the major guidelines in the foreign activity of Kazakhstan.

Another new element of the concept is announcing Central Asia as one of the essential strategic priorities of modern Kazakhstan. I am sure this declaration is highly important and takes into account the national interests of our country. Kazakhstan is located in the centre of Central Asia and its wellbeing is firmly tied to relations with neighbouring states. This is mainly related to securing economic and political development, regional stability and security, as well as tackling modern challenges and threats.

Active participation within intra-regional cooperation and, possibly, economic cooperation, is a guarantee for development of all Central Asian states. This is our view of integration processes development in the Eurasian space and our participation in them.

Economic integration is an objective tendency and a natural phenomenon in the globalised 21st century.

No country is able to develop without the integration of its economy. And our economy too, requires new markets, as well as the elimination of trade and investments barriers. This is one reason why we are pursuing economic integration and are creating the Eurasian Economic Union.

With that, we strictly observe such fundamental principles as inviolability of political sovereignty, economic rationalisation of decisions, gradual approach, pragmatism and mutual benefit. We also call for equal representation of parties in all integration organs and consensus at all levels of collaboration.

In addition, the economic component receives a strong emphasis in the concept. We believe it is important to provide wide political and diplomatic support when promoting Kazakhstan’s businesses abroad and attracting foreign investments and know-how in Kazakhstan’s economy. International experience proves that the economic activity of foreign ministries and embassies are a major tendency of diplomacy today. For example, a large number of requests to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or other governmental bodies from foreign ambassadors accredited to Kazakhstan relate to economic cooperation.

Kazakhstan’s participation in multilateral regional and global relationships strengthens the international reputation of the country. With that, Kazakhstan participates solely in those regional and international organisations whose activities relate to its national interests. Kazakhstan’s role as a member of the UN has grown within this reputable organisation. A range of Kazakhstan’s initiatives has been supported by the world community. This has established a positive international image of Kazakhstan. Today, on a reasonable basis, we are bidding for a position of a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2017-2018.

Proactive and responsible policies in the sphere of global security have brought Kazakhstan a reputation as a flagman of the movement for a nuclear-weapons-free world, disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The new concept notes that Kazakhstan’s policy in this highly important area of foreign policy will continue.

As a part of global community, Kazakhstan continues paying attention to environmental issues and the preservation of the global climate. This is explained by the fact that the Aral Sea and former Semipalatinsk nuclear test site are located in Kazakhstan.

Since the first years of independence, the country’s geographic priorities emphasised relationships with Russia, China, Central Asia, the United States, Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). In the new version, the list of traditional county priorities is expanded.

In particular, it is planned to strengthen the Asian vector of our foreign policy, including by means of a separate programme that is under development now. Major spheres of cooperation will be investment-technological and trade-economic cooperation. The successful realisation of the state programme “Path to Europe” in 2009-2011 has facilitated significant increases in volumes of trade and investments and has stimulated cooperation with Europeans countries along the whole specter of relations.

As a neighbouring state, Kazakhstan is interested in the stable development of Afghanistan and is ready to support, together with international partners, the social-economic rehabilitation of that country.

Taking into account historical and spiritual ties with the states of the Middle East, we look forward to long-awaited stability in this region. Kazakhstan firmly calls for a diplomatic resolution of the situation around Iran’s nuclear programme and hopes for continuing dialogue with Iran with all interested parties to reach mutually acceptable decisions.

Kazakhstan’s growing international reputation and economic potential have created conditions for enlarging cooperation with African states and Latin America. Signing a decree by the President on establishing an Embassy in the South African Republic in November 2013 was a symbolic act. This country is considered a “gateway to the African continent.” This year we expect to open Kazakhstan’s embassies in Ethiopia and Mexico. As one might recall, in 2012 our embassy in Brazil began its work.

The new concept is expected to expand Kazakhstan’s presence abroad in a pragmatic way. Our country plans to promote its interests in the farthest countries and regions.

These tasks would have been unsustainable in the initial period of our independence, when there were other issues on the agenda. But today, Kazakhstan is a stable and dynamically developing established state, which has established strategic goals up to 2050. Now we have prerequisites for implementing large-scale and ambitious foreign policy.

The new concept embodies the historical experience of previous years and generations, and symbolises the beginning of the next stage of Kazakhstan’s diplomacy development. I would like to underline that today Kazakhstan possesses an established set of fundamental principles to guide its foreign activity. Our task is to effectively and professionally bring them to life.

The author is the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan.

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