Ambassador of Kazakhstan talks to CENTRELINE and DNA
Ansar Mahmood Bhatti
Ambassador of Kazakhstan Barlybay Sadykov talked to CENTRELINE and Diplomatic News Agency (DNA). He talked about various aspects of Kazakhstan-Pakistan ties. Here is the text of his interview.
- Please share with us some key features of Kazakh-Pakistan relations, especially in the fields of diplomacy, trade, politics and culture.
- First of all, Kazakhstan and Pakistan have a long history of friendly relationship, with their beginning dating back to the early 1990’s. So, since then our countries have never questioned the need for developing and enhancing their bilateral ties.
Apart of that, I always note that Pakistan was among the first nations in the world to have recognized Kazakhstan’s sovereignty shortly after demise of the Soviet Union. That was probably the reason of why one of the first international visits of the President of Kazakhstan, Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev was paid to Pakistan in early 1992. This sort of mutual gestures of respect and honor really matter in inter-state relations and are of extreme importance for making them to develop well in the long run. At present the manifestation of that development is that Kazakhstan and Pakistan have no any political controversies or misunderstandings, which might obscure a bilateral interaction. This outstanding achievement comes from a strong political will of our countries leadership, who always cared of the Kazakh-Pak relationship and advocated them to be constructive as much as possible. Now around 35 bilateral documents regulate partnership between our countries in various domains, but there is still a lot to be done in extending a number of legal instruments for making that partnership even more fruitful.
The trade cooperation does not meet vast economic potential of two countries and needs intensifying contacts between their business communities. What is crucial now is to increase their awareness of each other and try to reduce those trade barriers, which may be removed with no harm to economic interests or international commitments of Kazakhstan and Pakistan.
Bearing in mind that geographic location and climatic peculiarities make Kazakhstan’s economy differ substantially from that of Pakistan, I am certain that at the very beginning our economies should be rather complimentary than competitive towards each other. For instance, Kazakhstan is able to meet Pakistan’s needs in supplies of mineral resources, namely oil, gas, coal, ore and some others, given the existence of viable transport routes and implementation of regional projects of TAPI and CASA-1000. Pakistan on its part could be a very competitive supplier of fruits, vegetables, textile and leather-made products, medicines and surgery equipment.
The entire foreign service of Kazakhstan is currently shifting towards strengthening primarily economic diplomacy in developing our country’s relationship with the rest of the world. This is to say that the Embassy is also to be strongly in line with this policy to be held here in Pakistan.
Kazakhstan and Pakistan have some opportunities to boost their trade and investment ties, which are to be fully exercised in a befitting way.
The Embassy is planning now to arrange a number of seminars, round-tables and road-shows in Pakistan’s economic and industrial hubs in Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and some other areas, with the aim of increasing awareness of local business circles about Kazakhstan, its trade and investment opportunities, as well as tourist potential of our country. In this regard I would like to underscore that the World Bank’s «Doing Business» comprehensive report for 2018 has ranked Kazakhstan 28th in terms of the ease of doing business, compared with its position at the 36th place in 2017.
Astana International Financial Center (AIFC), which was officially launched in the mid-2018 as the English-law-based institution, is expected to turn very soon into a regional financial hub, like the Shanghai stock market and the New-York stock market «Nasdaq». Pakistani business community is also highly welcomed to join cooperation with the AIFC.
Culture is another area that can bring Kazakhstan and Pakistan closer and better known to each other. And this asset is to be exercised at maximum by both countries, keeping in mind that cultural bonds had been linking peoples of Central and South Asia for centuries. What is needed now, is to revive gradually and patiently this linkage, no matter how difficult it looks like.
- People to people relations also play a significant role in bringing nations closer. How would you comment on this in reference to friendly relations between Kazakhstan and Pakistan?
– People-to-people contacts are turning to be an extremely important factor in keeping inter-state relationship safe and more predictable in the irreversibly globalizing world. This may also be applied to Kazakhstan-Pak relations. For this reason a growth of people-to-people contacts is the matter of my constant attention as the Ambassador of Kazakhstan.
Currently there is no lack of will to promote contacts between people of Kazakhstan and Pakistan, but a shortage of reliable and effectively dispersed information to be consumed by them for increasing awareness of each other. The challenging task here is to set up a well-functioning information exchange mechanism to create both in Kazakh and Pakistani societies a positive mindset of each other.
- Another hallmark of bilateral ties is increasing cooperation in defence sector. Can you share some details please?
– Kazakhstan places great emphasis upon cooperation with Pakistan in the military field. Despite a relatively short history of relationship in this domain, military cooperation is one of the most effective and dynamically developing areas in the general context of bilateral interstate interaction.
The Defence Attache Office of Kazakhstan has been functioning under the roof of the Embassy since 2002.
The main areas of focus are military education, special force training and military-technical interaction.
For instance, since 2005 up to the present 42 military personnel and members of the armed forces of Kazakhstan have been trained in military education centers in Pakistan. In 2018 four officers of the armed forces of Kazakhstan underwent in Islamabad a training course of military observers. This year another group of militaries from Kazakhstan are expected to arrive at Pakistan for being trained as part of peacekeeping forces.
The level of trust and military partnership was also demonstrated by the cooperation in the field of combat training. In November of 2017 the first ever Kazakh-Pak Counter-Terrorism drills “Dostarym-2017” were held in Pakistan on the basis of the National Anti-Terrorism Center in Pabby. The second Counter-Terrorism exercises are expected to be held in Kazakhstan in 2019.
The annually held meetings of the Kazakh-Pak Joint Military Commission is fully authorized to identify, arrange and coordinate any practical cooperation actions between the defence ministries of two countries. Bilateral cooperation in military-technical field is to be regarded as a separate domain under the competence of the Joint military-technical Commission. This Commission’s inaugural meeting is also scheduled to be held in 2019. The Embassy on its part is fully determined to be a visible part of this process.
- Is there any possibility of cooperation between two countries in civil-nuclear technology?
– Despite of being a strong and persistent advocate of the nuclear-arms-free world, Kazakhstan at the same time believes that it is any country’s inalienable right to use nuclear energy in the civil area and develop civil-nuclear technologies under international surveillance. dual attitude towards ways of nuclear energy exploitation lay behind of Kazakhstan has taken a massive initiative to set up and allocate the IAEA Low-enriched Uranium Bank that shall be at the disposal of other countries for meeting their civil-nuclear needs under the watch of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Apart from that Kazakhstan is one of the biggest producers of natural uranium, which is essential for developing civil-nuclear technologies.
There are no obstacles for developing cooperation between Kazakhstan and Pakistan in civil-nuclear domain, given that terms and forms of that cooperation are correctly identified in accordance with the international obligations under non-proliferation instruments like NPT, CTBT, NSG and other documents to which Kazakhstan and Pakistan are parties.
- What are the prospects of bilateral cooperation in Agriculture field?
– Pakistan is well-known worldwide as agro-industrial country, blessed with very comfortable geographic and climatic environment, allowing reaping the harvest twice, or even thrice a year. Therefore, Pakistan is hard to be beaten in the region as importer of fruits and vegetables. Thus, Pakistan’s vast expertise in the field of agriculture may be well exercised though opening joint Kazakh-Pak enterprises in growing fruits and vegetables, particularly in Kazakhstan, which lacks them due to its climatic specificities.
- Kazakhstan has tremendously reduced poverty. Can you share with our readers steps taken by your government to reduce poverty?
– Kazakhstan is country, which encountered with considerable socio-economic miseries immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union almost 28 years ago, as many traditional economic links with other parts of the Union simply severed and turned to be unworkable. Restoration of these ties has always been a matter of concern of the leadership of Kazakhstan, whose leader President Nursultan Nazarbayev ultimately succeeded to lead our country through turbulent age and to ensure its steady development and economic progress. A visible indicator of this outcome is the reduction of poverty, which since the early 1990’s decreased down to 13 times. It became largely possible thanks to correct identification by the President and national Government of most urgent economic problems and ways of their solution. This mode of economic policy is mirrored in long-term strategic documents, designed to put respective developmental targets to be achieved by Kazakhstan by 2030 and 2050. Here I am talking about «Kazakhstan-2030» and «Kazakhstan-2050» strategic documents, which are the most essential strategic documents to be read by anyone, who wants to acknowledge what Kazakhstan’s developmental goals are about and how they are expected to be addressed.
But in fundamental terms the most important factors needed for reducing poverty are a well-educated society and friendly business environment. Currently Kazakhstan is doing its best to meet these two major terms. The first challenge is that almost 100 percent of literacy rate of the Kazakh population is to be transformed into a globally competitive national education system. The second one is about establishing in Kazakhstan a friendly business and investment environment, which is of vital importance for extending employment rates and consequently, reducing poverty and social vulnerability. According to «Doing Business» latest data for 2019 Kazakhstan is ranking now as 28th in terms of ease of doing business. But keeping in mind that Kazakhstan has officially declared its intention to join by 2050 the list of 30 economically most developed nations of the world, there is still a lot to be done to further go up in this raning.
- Kazakhstan as we know strongly believes in nuclear non-proliferation and has taken a number of steps in this regard. Can you share some details in this regard?
– Nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation have remained a hallmark of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy since the country got sovereignty in 1991 and up to the present. This sort of “obsession” by this issue definitely derives from practical knowledge Kazakhstan had get under the Soviet rule of the damage may be caused by use of nuclear weaponry. This is to remind that Kazakhstan had been through several decades the area of nuclear arms testing at Semipalatinsk site. The consequences of those tests caused irreparable damage to the country’s environment and health condition of our nation. But the ban to hold arms tests at Semipalatinsk nuclear tests site in 1989 and its consequent closure in August of 1991 was only an overture to what followed then, when Kazakhstan got independence.
Our country was among those former Soviet republics, who inherited a massive nuclear arms arsenal of the late USSR. To be more precise, by early 1992 Kazakhstan appeared to be a sovereign owner of more than 110 ballistic missiles with 1200 nuclear warheads. The uneasy dilemma of whether to keep or get rid of them was solved by the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev in favor of the latter. Following his decision that nuclear weaponry was either dismantled in Kazakhstan or removed out of the country. This unexampled in terms of its courage decision was accompanied by signing of the range of bilateral agreements between Kazakhstan and nuclear powers, who guaranteed security of Kazakhstan in exchange of its renouncing a status of a nuclear arms possessing nation.
Nowadays Kazakhstan is known as being in the vanguard of international efforts to make the world free of nuclear arms and to minimize a plausibility of their practical exercising. In this regard the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev while addressing at the 70th session of the UN General Assembly in 2015 called the international community to strive for achieving a nuclear-arms-free world by 2045 – the UN’s 100th Anniversary, and to consider elimination of nuclear weaponry as its primary goal in the 21st century. That was also Kazakhstan’s initiative behind the adoption by the UN General Assembly on December 7, 2015 of the Universal Declaration on the Achievement of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World.
Kazakhstan fully admits that total elimination of nuclear weaponry is indeed a formidable task for considering it as the easy-to-achieve one. Uneasy nature of this problem probably originates from deeply rooted distrust among nations and their mental unpreparedness to give up from possessing nuclear arms. But at the same time omnipresent belief in impossibility for the world to survive in nuclear war remains a credible ground for keeping efforts to make this Damoclean sword over the humankind to disappear once and for all.
- What is importance of CPEC for Central Asia in particular and Kazakhstan in general?
– Kazakhstan chiefly views CPEC as one of the most important directions of China-initiated ‘One Belt, One Road’ strategy, which was originally articulated by the Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping in Astana during his first official visit to Kazakhstan in 2013. Kazakhstan unequivocally supported that grandiose idea of our Chinese partners and revealed its intention to be a part of it. Therefore, CPEC is likely to be an economic project to provide badly needed linkage between entire Central Asia and Kazakhstan in particular with Pakistan via China. At the bilateral meeting, held in 2017 on the sidelines of the Shanghai Organization Cooperation Summit in Astana between the President of Kazakhstan, Mr.Nursultan Nazarbayev and the then Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif the leader of my country lauded CPEC.
The development of the ‘Gwadar’ seaport and the reconstruction of the Karakorum highway, which will connect China’s Xinxiang province with Pakistan with a new high-speed and high-altitude road are of particular interest for Kazakhstan in this regard. This interest is based upon a growing opportunity for Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries to get access to the Indian Ocean and sea trade communications.
A promising area of cooperation is the linking of the “Nurly Zhol” Program in Kazakhstan with the CPEC project.
At present, there is already work being done with aim of adopting the Kazakh-Pak “Road map” to enhance bilateral trade and economic relations as a whole through identifying points of overlapping interests of both Kazakhstan and Pakistan within ‘One Belt, One Road’ strategy.
- Your impressions about Pakistan?
– I am personally really stunned with ancient culture and history of Pakistan, which are closely inter-related with the ones of Central Asia. Another great asset of Pakistan is its hospitable people, who are to lead the country towards fully deserved brighter future. As the Ambassador the more I get to know about Pakistan, the more I get aware of its importance for global politics. So, I am certain that staying and working in Pakistan is a great chance for any diplomat to grow both professionally and intellectually.