Kazakhstan, an emerging power with difficult road ahead

October 19, 2021 - 18:3

TEHRAN – The glitz and glamour of Nur-Sultan are engrossing every foreign visitor. From plush towers with sophisticated modern architecture to crowded foreign shopping centers all have one message to convey: Kazakhstan is changing.

This change is better manifested by the hustle and bustle of Nur-Sultan, the burgeoning capital of Kazakhstan which is becoming a diplomatic venue for resolving many global problems. 

In 2013, when Iran and the West were starting their nuclear negotiations, they chose the Kazakh city of Almaty as a venue for their talks, a move that served as an early sign of the emergence of Kazakhstan as a reliable host for important global interactions. 

Kazakhstan further strengthened its status as a credible diplomatic venue by hosting several rounds of negotiations over the Syria crisis. These negotiations, which continue to this day, came to be known as the Astana Process. 

Kazakhstan’s quest for improving its diplomatic position in the world was coupled with an economic opening up, a policy that resulted in an inflow of foreign investments into Kazakhstan. Visitors to Nur-Sultan would easily notice the impacts of this policy. Foreign investments in Nur-Sultan bear witness to the Kazakhs’ success in attracting foreign capital. 

But this success is far less than desired, which constitutes a strong motivation on the part of Kazakhstan to make further strides in terms of strengthening ties with all pivotal countries in the region. For instance, Kazakhstan can improve relations with Iran and raise the trade volume with it. 

Kazakhstan understands this pretty well and it even made efforts to foster people-to-people interactions with Iran in parallel with its diplomatic relations with Iran.

On October 17, 2021, the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan to Iran, jointly with the Cultural Institute of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) organized a roundtable dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the Independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan with the participation of representatives of Iranian expert and “think tanks”, the business community, prominent cultural figures of Iran, as well as friends of Kazakhstan, according to a statement issued by Kazakhstan’s embassy in Tehran. 

The key lecturers of the roundtable were the Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan to Iran A. Orazbay, the President of the ECO Cultural Institute S. Bakhti, the ex-Ambassador of Iran to the Republic of Kazakhstan M. Damirchilu, leading experts on the CIS and Central Asia, Head of the International Academic Cooperation of the Allameh Tabataba’i University Professor Mandana Tisheyar and Head of Center for Eurasia of the University of Tehran Professor Elahe Koolaee, the statement added. 

In addition, the Kazakh capital in mid-October played host to the 6th ministerial meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), with media and diplomatic representation from Iran. 

The Conference gathered representatives of 23 out of 27 member states and observers, heads of international observer organizations, and partner organizations in a hybrid format.

The international gathering was the latest indication that Kazakhstan is in pursuit of better relations with other countries. But improving relations with world countries has its own complications that Kazakhstan needs to tackle if it wants to become a country with good trade and diplomatic ties with the world. In their quest for this kind of ties, the Kazakhs seem to have adopted a pragmatist foreign policy. But this pragmatism, while can be fruitful in certain cases, is no panacea for the complexities underlying international relations. For instance, any Kazakh move to build closer ties with Israel would endanger Kazakhstan’s warm relations with many Muslim countries including Iran, and alienate the Muslim people of Kazakhstan itself. 

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