Trends of modern global geopolitical development show a significant increase of the role of Asian countries, some of which come to the forefront and affect the issues of international political and economic life more.
More interest in this case is drawn to the Republic of India, a leading country in South Asia. Due to massive growth of the economy and the new geopolitical realities, India is rapidly integrating into the centre of world processes. Delhi is a part of the club of the 12 largest economies of the world whose GDP exceeds $1 trillion. India is now considered in the West not as regional, but as an emerging global power. Analysts predict that by 2025 India may have the third largest GDP in the world after China and the United States. The high rates of socio-economic development (GDP growth of 7.5 percent) became the fundamental achievement of the Indian state and society. India is widely known for its achievements in the sphere of high technologies, especially in aerospace, nuclear engineering and software.
Today’s reality is such that there is an urgent need to establish closer cooperation with India and for this there are all possibilities, including a genuine interest in our country by India. India gives a special role in its foreign policy in the Central Asian region to the development of full-scale relations with Kazakhstan and considers it not only as a serious trade partner but also as a important political one. Political stability, the high economic and scientific-technical potential of the country and attractive investment climate are the reasons for this.
Relations between our people have ancient traditions and are rooted in the days of the Great Migration of People; as a result, many of the ancient Turks settled in India (Indian Kings Kanishka or Hanerke, Saks, Sakyamuni). They were mutually enriched during the existence of the Silk Road and the reign of the Mughals in India. The well-known Kazakh medieval statesman historian, poet and humanist Muhammad Haidar Dulati, by order of his great nephew Humayun, the ruler of Mogolistan, was appointed governor of Kashmir in the period from 1540-1551 and made an enormous contribution to the development and prosperity of this state. As the ruler of Kashmir, he wrote a poem, “Jahan Nama,” and the book, “Tarikh-i-Rashidi,” which laid the foundation of medieval Kazakh historiography. Currently, his ashes rest in the city of Srinagar in northern India. These relations laid the foundation and now we are united by mutual respect, a rich spirituality, openness and tolerance, hospitality and continued commitment to the progressive development for the benefit of our people.
A natural continuation of the historical traditions of our relations was the signing of the Declaration on Strategic Partnership in January 2009, which was adopted during the successful visit of President Nursultan Nazarbayev to India, when he took part as the guest of honor in the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Day of the Republic of India. In accordance with this important document, the countries came to a new level of cooperation. The invitation to become the chief guest of the national day has a special meaning; it demonstrates the strategic importance of relations between the two countries and shows the deep respect of Indians to the people of Kazakhstan and its recognised leader. It should be noted that after receiving independence, Nursultan Nazarbayev decided to make the first foreign visit to India, which took place on February 22, 1992. Later, he visited India several times and now he has initiated the visit of the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi to the Republic of Kazakhstan, which indicates a positive attitude towards India and the desire to have a close partnership with this great country.
In this context, I would like to note that on July 7-8 Modi will pay an official visit to Astana, which we see as a significant event in Kazakh-Indian relations. The visit will allow us to bring the strategic partnership on the path of long-term development through the expansion of trade-economic and technological-investment cooperation. During the visit, there are plans to hold a business council meeting and sign important bilateral documents which will provide the proper dynamics to our relations. There are also plans to hold an online video conference when the drilling of the first exploration well in the Satpayev oil and gas block developed by the Indian oil company ONGC Videsh Ltd and KazMunayGas will be presented in front of the two leaders. It will be a testament to India’s entry into the Kazakh oil and gas industry as a major international player and sharing of successful cooperation in this field.
In recent years, Kazakh-Indian relations have become increasingly dynamic. Our countries cooperate very effectively in the political field, where they have similar positions on major international issues. We are actively cooperating with India in multilateral fora and international and regional organisations which often share common views on global and regional processes. Kazakhstan supports India’s aspirations to permanent membership in the UN Security Council, while India in turn supports the candidacy of the Republic of Kazakhstan as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2017-2018 and has confirmed its participation in EXPO 2017. There is a great prospect of cooperation within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in which India, with the help of the Republic of Kazakhstan, hopes to gain full membership. India also supports the initiative of President Nazarbayev to hold a congress of world and traditional religions in Astana by actively taking part in the activities of the congress, including in the preparation of the Fifth Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, which was held June 10 in Astana.
In addition, India is a consistent supporter of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) and actively participates in this process. In this regard, we look forward to its constructive position on the issue of transformation of the CICA in the Organisation for Security and Development in Asia. Our cooperation in the field of politics tends to deepen; in particular, currently the foreign ministries of the two countries have begun to hold political consultations on the establishment of “Washington-Delhi-Astana,” a tripartite geopolitical dialogue designed to find answers for many geopolitical challenges in the Asian continent.
Well-established political cooperation between our countries is a good basis for the development of mutually beneficial trade and economic cooperation. For the development and strengthening of trade and economic relations, we held ministerial and consular consultations, as well as the intergovernmental commission and six joint working groups (JWG) on trade and economic cooperation, military technical cooperation, information technology, development of the textile industry, combating terrorism and tea debt. There are plans to establish JWGs on oil and gas and transport and logistics, as well as on health and pharmacology. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan plays a central role in this system of bilateral relations by coordinating JWG work and if necessary, initiates the governmental decrees and decisions to achieve positive outcomes.
The volume of trade between Kazakhstan and India for 2014 amounted to $1,343.9 billion (including export from Kazakhstan of $1.83 billion and import of $260 million). We believe that it does not reflect the trade-economic potential and opportunities of the two countries, despite the fact that this figure still exceeds the total trade turnover of India with all the Central Asian states combined. The main obstacle for intensification of trade and economic cooperation between our countries was the lack of permanent land transport routes. In this regard, the project of the new Uzen-Bereket-Gorgan railway line, an offshoot of the North-South corridor, plays an important role in the development prospects of bilateral economic and trade cooperation. The project was opened by the Presidents of Kazakhstan, Iran and Turkmenistan on December 3, 2014. It will reduce the freight distance and its cost by two times or more.
In this context, the visit of the president of Kazakhstan Temir Zholy Askar Mamin to India on June 9-10 should be noted, during which talks were held with Indian authorities on the development of logistics for transporting goods to Kazakhstan and via Kazakhstan by visiting the ports of Mundra, Mumbai and Bandar Abbas through Iran and Turkmenistan to Kazakhstan. In addition, the parties are considering the possibility of implementing joint projects for the construction and lease or acquisition of terminal facilities in western Indian ports such as Mundra and Mumbai in order to create the optimal transport schemes between Kazakhstan and India, as well as the promotion of Indian exports.
We expect intensification of the parties after the fourth meeting of the JWG on trade and economic cooperation in October 2015 in Astana and the first meeting of the JWG on transport and logistics in the second half of 2015 in India. Creation of the joint study group on the study of the feasibility of an agreement on free trade between the member states of the Eurasian Economic Union and India will also bring a positive impact on the growth of trade.
The above-mentioned business council, which will be created by the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs of Kazakhstan and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), will play a great role in the intensification of work on attracting investments and new technologies in the economy of both countries. Its first meeting will take place during the visit of the Prime Minister of India to Kazakhstan. As part of the business council, the signing of a “road map” which unites more than 20 large investment projects will take place. It will give a strong impetus to bilateral trade and economic cooperation (foreign direct investment from India to Kazakhstan from 2005 to 2014 amounted to $205.6 million, the outflow of direct investments from Kazakhstan to India during 2005 to 2014, $65.5 million). These agreements were reached as a result of the visit of Minister of Investment and Development of Kazakhstan Asset Issekeshev to India on June 15-17, during which he held extensive discussions with the three ministers, heads of state-owned companies, the chamber of commerce and more than 25 of the largest companies in India.
In the course of attracting investments and new technologies in the economy of Kazakhstan, Kazakh ministries and departments are primarily based on the Nurly Zhol state-of-the-nation address from the President of Kazakhstan (November, 2014) and five institutional reforms that provide various financial privileges and create an attractive infrastructure and necessary conditions for Indian companies.
Good opportunities are opening for cooperation in the field of oil and gas. During the 12th session of the intergovernmental commission in New Delhi on June 16-17, conducted as a preparatory event to the visit of the Prime Minister, the Indian side was proposed to consider participating in the Eurasia project, which is distinguished by its prospect as the previous Satpayev block.
The Indian side expressed interest in holding negotiations on the transportation of oil and gas to India and readiness to consider the possibility of creating joint ventures to produce marketable products in the oil and gas industry, as well as providing services.
The cooperation in the field of civil nuclear energy is constructively developing. The contract for the supply of Kazakh uranium to India is also being prepared for signing during the visit of the Prime Minister of India to Kazakhstan. Work is continuing on the establishment of bilateral cooperation with India in the fuel and energy sector, which is not an easy situation. By 2017, India will require an additional 500 million tonnes of coal a year, despite the fact that this number exceeds the opportunities of the Indian mining companies by 2.3 times. Taking into account the competitive opportunities of Kazakhstan’s coal mining industry, we consider the issues of our cooperation in this area.
In the field of civil aviation, there is the flight between Kazakhstan and India carried by Air Astana on the Almaty-Delhi-Almaty route. Currently, the airline company is holding talks to increase the frequency from seven to 21 connections per week.
Good opportunities are opening for cooperation in the textile industry and in medicine. Thus, hundreds of patients each year are sent for treatment to Indian clinics. Talks are being planned for the clinical trials of MDR-TB, a unique Kazakh drug for treating tuberculosis and total drug-resistant forms of TB strains which are identified in India.
There is active cooperation in the field of military-technical cooperation. In particular, work continues in the following areas of bilateral cooperation: implementation of the agreements in the field of arms and military equipment and military aircraft, cooperation in the naval field, cooperation in the field of military space, direct contracts without calls for tenders between the Kirov Plant for machine building and the Indian side for the supply of spare parts, cooperation in the field of scientific research and experimental constructional work.
Cultural and humanitarian ties and scientific and technical cooperation are also developing steadily. Currently, work is being carried out related to the installation of a bust of Kazakh poet and philosopher Abai Kunanbayuly in New Delhi on the same-named street. The Centre of Kazakh language and Kazakh studies, which distributes Kazakh history, language, literature and art and promotes the Kazakh lifestyle, operates at Jamia Millia Islamia University.
Direct contacts and the exchange of students between universities of both countries are actively established. In particular, in January 2014 Yerlan Sydykov, rector of L.N. Gumilev Eurasian National University, visited India and had a meeting with colleagues from the Institute of Technology. As a result, a memorandum of understanding was signed. A computer centre which has a planned opening during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Kazakhstan is being created with the active assistance of the Indian side.
The delegation headed by Kazakh National University Rector Galimkair Mutanov visited Delhi where they met with the rectors of Delhi University, Amity Technological University and Amity University. During the negotiations, the parties reached some agreements in which the main emphasis was placed on scientific and technical cooperation. As a result of the meetings, bilateral documents on cooperation were signed and an agreement on publishing the Kazakh-Hindi dictionary was reached.
There was also an agreement to open representation of Kazakh National University at Amity University and of representation of Amity University at the Kazakh National University.
In general, the state and prospects of development of Kazakh-Indian relations show that we have chosen the right vector of development of cooperation. Existing capacity is very large and almost unlimited. Kazakhstan will continue to strive to make the most of every opportunity to raise the strategic partnership to an even higher level and to fill relations between India and Kazakhstan with new meaning and content for the sake of the friendship and prosperity of the people of the two countries.
The successful development of full-scale cooperation between our two countries will depend to a large extent on the practical implementation of the agreements reached during the 12th meeting of the intergovernmental commission in New Delhi on June 16-17 and Prime Minister Modi’s visit in Kazakhstan on July 7-8. The adoption of the relevant resolutions of the government of Kazakhstan to monitor the implementation of decisions and the defining of specific implementers from the Kazakh side to some extent should contribute to the strengthening accountability of their implementation.
Summing up the experience in the development of Kazakh-Indian cooperation, we can conclude that the current political realities dictate the urgent need to reassess the role of modern India and the further development of closer relations with the leading South Asian state to be included in the priority list of the Kazakhstan foreign policy in Asia.
Strong arguments in favour of such formulation of the question are as already noted – the high international prestige of the country in the region and the world and the progress in the economy, which make India attractive from the point of view of bilateral relations. At the same time, the development of full-scale relations between Kazakhstan and India fully meets the needs of our countries and should be focused on deepening and expanding mutual political contacts and business cooperation.
The author is the ambassador of Kazakhstan to India.