Ethnic Harmony and Multi-Vector Foreign Policy Key to Kazakhstan’s Stability, Development

On April 18, the 21st session of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan chaired by President Nursultan Nazarbayev took place in Astana.

The theme of the session was “Strategy “Kazakhstan 2050: the culture of peace, spirituality and harmony.” The session was attended by members of the Assembly, members of the government and the Kazakh Parliament, heads of political parties, religious groups, representatives of science and academia, media and foreign guests.

The key message of the opening speech by the President was on the stability and unity of Kazakhstan’s society. The harmonious development of a multi-ethnic Kazakhstan is the essential factor in achieving the developmental goals set forth in Strategy 2050.

Indeed, we witness how wise and deft management of a multicultural society that provides equality before the law, freedom of religions and languages, plays a crucial role in social stability that translates into sustainable economic development. President Nazarbayev reiterated during the session that there are no preferences in Kazakh law based on ethnic, religious or national characteristics. All people of Kazakhstan are equal before the law.

In Kazakhstan, representatives of multiple nationalities live together and have equal access to all social services. Kazakhstan’s multi-ethnic society has a long history: during Soviet times, representatives of various nationalities, including Russians, Ukrainians, Germans, Turkish and Koreans, under different circumstances moved to Kazakhstan. In his speech, President Nazarbayev focused on Kazakhstan’s path toward its multinational society: from the past when different nationalities were initially united under the pressures of World War II and later while implementing the grandiose plans of the Soviet economy. At present, Kazakhstan’s people not only strengthen inter-ethnic dialogue, but also learn how to benefit from the richness of the country’s vast variety of national customs, literature and traditions. In near future, the President called for additional measures to strengthen the Kazakh model of tolerance and harmony. He said the Assembly needs to support the work of ethnic and cultural groups and  Kazakhstan’s culture as a whole.

Sadly, recent events in Ukraine, which, according to the President, “could not be heard of without pain in the soul,” display how inter-ethnic discord may not only be detrimental to development, but bring grief to many Ukrainian families and threaten the country’s future. According to the President, inter-ethnic relations, civil equality and language policies cannot be a matter of political games. One cannot ignore these values or use them in a struggle for power. “Everyone must understand that there is a thin line that separates chauvinism and nationalism from outright neo-fascism,” President Nazarbayev said.

The unity of Kazakhstan’s society is a key factor in the implementation of Strategy 2050, while at the same time the strengthening of peace and unity is the key outcome of the implementation of the developmental plan.

As all countries’ domestic and foreign policies are closely intertwined, Kazakhstan’s domestic multi-ethnicity goes hand-in-hand with its multi-vector foreign policy. In his speech at the session, the President reiterated that Russia, Central Asian countries and China are neighbours of Kazakhstan; this is why Kazakhstan will always maintain amiable relations with those countries.

The recent meetings at the Nuclear Security Summit in the Hague allowed Kazakhstan to advance bilateral relations and discuss pressing issues on the international agenda, including the situation in and around Ukraine.

As the Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan, Erlan Idrissov, wrote recently , in the Hague “global leaders both appreciated Kazakhstan’s balanced position in the current complicated and contentious circumstances and sought advice from the Kazakh leader given his vast experience in international politics and the respect he enjoys from all sides.”

According to the foreign minister, “Recent foreign policy developments, including top-level meetings and visits, have once again demonstrated the critical importance of Kazakhstan’s multi-vector foreign policy. Remaining true to the fundamental principles and values of this well-established doctrine is the only viable option for a country such as ours.”

Kazakhstan has maintained peace and harmony in a society that brings together more than 100 ethnic groups and almost 20 religions. It has built up and maintained mutually beneficial relations with all countries, both near and far. And it has managed to reform its economy by and large and ensure the sustainable growth of the living standards for its population.

This has been Kazakhstan’s recipe for success in the first 22 years of its independence. Policy directions coming from the country’s leaders indicate they intend to stay true to such a course. While there are numerous voices in the society openly challenging the wisdom of such policies, and proposing, for example, to draw down the level of cooperation with Russia, the overwhelming majority of the people in Kazakhstan seems to be firmly supportive of this course of actions and policies, though. And it woud be only wise for them, and, in fact, for all of Kazakhstan’s foreign partners, to support it firmly, too, as this would benefit all.

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