Wednesday, 05 February 2014

Kazakhstan Adopts New Foreign Policy Concept

Published in Field Reports
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By Georgiy Voloshin (the 05/02/2014 issue of the CACI Analyst)

On January 29, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev approved his country’s new foreign policy concept for the period 2014-2020. As the document states, it was developed in line with the “Kazakhstan 2050” strategy made public by President Nazarbayev in December 2012 and further detailed in his recent address to the nation last month. The major goal of this strategic initiative is to ensure Kazakhstan’s entry into the elite club of the world’s 30 most developed countries by the turn of this century.

The new foreign policy concept lists several fundamental objectives. These include, inter alia, ensuring comprehensive national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity; strengthening world and regional peace and stability; supporting the central role of the United Nations in the existing global order; and diversifying Kazakhstan’s economic development. Other priorities concern the legal protection of Kazakhstani citizens abroad and the active popularization of the Kazakh culture, language and traditions, in particular via the many Kazakh-speaking communities in Europe, America and East Asia.

Kazakhstan has identified Central Asia as the primary focus of its diplomatic action in the next few decades. In this respect, Astana will aim to develop closer ties with its southern neighbors in trade and culture, besides its long-standing commitment to tackling cross-border organized crime, drug trafficking, terrorism and religious extremism emanating from Afghanistan. The country seeks to reinforce its leadership positions in the region and to continue playing a key role in structuring Central Asia’s future geopolitical landscape in the post-2014 context.

As the Kazakhstani government is preparing to sign the founding treaty of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), to become fully operational as of next January, Eurasian integration is increasingly viewed from Astana as a priority focus area of its diplomacy. Thus, Kazakhstan is pledging its continuous support to the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space with Russia and Belarus, since both of these structures will serve as the basis of the future integration bloc. However, Kazakhstani authorities are keen to preserve the country’s sovereignty and independence from Moscow, in the context where Russia has been pushing for closer integration not only at the economic level but also at the political one.

Astana has also confirmed its attachment to the principles of multilateralism, as embodied in its active involvement in multiple regional and international organizations. At various times, Kazakhstan occupied the rotating presidency of such entities as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Islamic Cooperation Organization (ICO). It hopes to use these and some other discussion platforms to further engage in proactive diplomacy based on dialogue and coordination. Multilateral security, non-proliferation and peaceful conflict resolution will stay at the top of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy agenda.

While the new foreign policy concept affirms the need to adjust the country’s external action to its revised priorities for the 21st century, Central Asia’s biggest country still remains committed to its traditional multi-vector strategy. This strategy, which is now closely associated with Kazakhstan on the international stage, implies the pursuit of well-balanced and mutually advantageous relations simultaneously on several different fronts. Russia, China, the U.S. and the EU are and will continue to be Kazakhstan’s primary partners in fields as diverse as trade, military cooperation or cultural exchanges.

At the same time, Astana will keep on expanding its growing ties with such remote countries as South Korea, Japan, India and Pakistan as well as the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. In the previous years, Kazakhstan’s efforts to diversify its foreign policy partnerships have already resulted in the attraction of new investments and the implementation of many joint projects. Relations between Astana and Seoul are widely known in the region as a successful example of broader transcontinental cooperation across Eurasia. Kazakhstan also intends to remain involved in the normalization of bilateral relations between Iran and the West, given its previous track record as an impartial mediator on Tehran’s domestic nuclear program.

Finally, Kazakhstan seeks to deploy more of its diplomatic missions in places where its presence has been limited so far. Last November, President Nazarbayev ordered the opening of a new embassy in South Africa and is planning to make an official visit to Johannesburg later this year. Another full-fledged embassy has been operating in Brazil since 2012. As Kazakhstani Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov recently noted in an article published by Kazakhstanskaya Pravda, a pro-government newspaper, two other embassies will be opened by the end of 2014 in Ethiopia and Mexico. By so doing, Kazakhstan seeks to become a more active player in international affairs.

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The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.

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