Three Pillars of Kazakhstan-Afghanistan Relations

ASTANA – The agenda of Kazakh-Afghan relations at a business forum in Kazakhstan’s capital, which has started today and will last three days, prioritizes mutually beneficial trade, humanitarian cooperation, and the search for opportunities for transport connectivity between the regions.

Deputy General Director of QazTrade Center for Trade Policy Development Nurlan Kulbatyrov. Photo credit: Kulbatyrov’s personal archive.

Food security in the current complex geopolitical situation is of utmost importance. With its over 40 million population, Afghanistan is considered an intense and promising market for Kazakhstan and neighboring Asian countries.

In 2022, mutual trade approached $1 billion, 2.1 times more than the previous year. Kazakhstan mainly supplies food products, which is vital for Afghanistan, accounting for 70% of the country’s flour export. Kazakhstan’s imports increased by 82.6% to $9.1 million last year.

The new level of partnership

More than 50 joint Kazakh-Afghan enterprises operate in Kazakhstan in the trade sector. QazTrade Center for Trade Policy Development, promoting non-oil exports, is working to establish export flows towards Afghanistan.

Kazakh manufacturers of confectionery, as well as suppliers of fertilizers and sunflower oil, are interested in close cooperation with Afghan partners, intending to create joint ventures as well.

The last visit of domestic companies to Kabul resulted in successful cases of deliveries of Kazakh-made energy drinks and flour products.

Afghanistan’s imports to Kazakhstan are also essential. In this regard, it is necessary to use the potential of a Kazakh trade house opened in Herat this year to strengthen trade and economic ties between the countries.

Since 2013, six trade and economic missions of Kazakh companies have been sent to Afghanistan, and the QazTrade will continue this annual tradition.

Regions’ transport connectivity

Afghanistan functions as a transit territory, opening access to the densely populated countries of South Asia. Considering Afghanistan’s favorable geographical location, the topmost need is developing transport and logistics routes to expand the region’s trade and transit opportunities.

This year, Kazakhstan imported Pakistani potatoes along the shortest route that passes through the territory of Afghanistan and connects Pakistan with the countries of Central Asia.

With a vast transit and transport potential, Afghanistan needs an integral system of railways. The country has a small section of the railway Termez (Uzbekistan) – Mazar-i-Sharif (Afghanistan), built by Uzbekistan, in the north. A short railway route from Peshawar (Pakistan) – Kabul (Afghanistan) operates east.

In 2021, the authorities of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan agreed to extend the trans-Afghan railway Termez-Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar, which will be beneficial not only for Tashkent, Kabul, and Islamabad but will also open trade routes for other countries of South and Central Asia, as well as the Middle East.

Offering a helping hand

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev advocates uniting international efforts to assist the Afghan people and find ways out of the country’s difficult humanitarian crisis.

The President proposed establishing a United Nations Regional Center for Sustainable Development Goals for Central Asia and Afghanistan in Almaty to promote socio-economic and trade investment development cooperation.

This year, Kazakhstan delivered 5,403 tons of humanitarian aid to the Afghan people, as it constantly assists one of the most important vectors of its activities in ensuring the stability of regional development.

The authors are Deputy General Director of QazTrade Center for Trade Policy Development Nurlan Kulbatyrov, and Saniya Sakenova, The Astana Times News Reporter. 

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