30 Years Of Pakistan-Kazakhstan Relations And Way Forward – OpEd

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The World’s largest landlock country, Kazakhstan, officially the Republic of Kazakhstan is a transcontinental country located in central Asia and partially in the Eastern Europe. It is bordered by Russia in the North and West, China to the East, Kyrgyzstan to the southeast, Uzbekistan to the south, and Turkmenistan to the southwest. It has a coastline of Caspian Sea in the southwest. With a population of more than 18 million, it is the largest Muslim majority country by area and ninth largest country in the world. Nur-Sultan (Astana) is the capital of the Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan declared independence on 16 December 1991, the last Soviet republic to declare independence. It is a democratic, secular, and social state that accepts the human rights of the people. With presidential system of government, Kazakhstan is a unitary state. With a significant resource of oil and gas, Kazakhstan is the ninth country proven in oil reserves in western regions. It also has vast amount of coal and uranium deposits. Kazakhstan is among the top ten grain exporters of the world. According to the British experts, Kazakhstan is ranked third in most dynamic economies of the world, leaving behind China and Qatar.  

Kazakhstan maintains equal and friendly relations with all the countries of the world. The relations between Pakistan and Kazakhstan are exemplary since the establishment of formal diplomatic ties. Pakistan was among the first few countries which recognized Kazakhstan at the time of its independence in December 1991. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in 1992. Both the countries enjoy bilateral relations based on mutual respect, cooperation, and economic integration. The first official visit took place in 1995 followed by second Prime Ministerial visit in 2011.

Former president of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari visited Kazakhstan in 2011. Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif also visited Kazakhstan in 2015. Former President of Kazakhstan Nazarbayev visited Pakistan twice in 1992 and 2003. Several Parliamentary and Ministerial as well as high level officials also exchange visits from time to time. The leadership of both countries are agreed to strengthen the relations in the field of trade, cooperation, education, agriculture, and technology. They are also working for the connectivity of the both countries by air. Several Agreements and MoUs (memoranda of understanding) were signed for enhancing bilateral cooperation between the two countries in the areas of trade and investment, defense and strategic studies, and training in foreign services.

Both the countries are committed to continue their cooperation in international forums, including the United Nations, SCO, ECO and OIC. Kazakhstan supported Pakistan for becoming non-permanent member of United Nations Security Council in October 2011. Kazakhstan also supports Pakistan’s full membership in Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). In 2017-2018, Pakistan supported Kazakhstan’s bid for a non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. Moreover, Pakistan provides natural link to connect the Central Asian countries with the Arabian Sea and South Asia. Whereas Kazakhstan is an important part of Central Asia Region (CAR) connected with ancient links with South Asia  

Pakistan exports pharmaceutical products, agricultural and food goods, precious stones, and jewelry, chemical and vegetables, shoes, leather items, sport and medical equipment, construction materials etc. to Kazakhstan. Pakistan imports from Kazakhstan construction and materials, food, machinery and equipment, fertilizers, coal, iron and nonferrous metals, seed oil etc. After a trade volume of $65 million between Pakistan and Kazakhstan in 2019, a growth of 58% was observed in 2020 with a trade of $103 million. Now in 2022, trade turnover of agricultural products between Kazakhstan and Pakistan was $12.6 million, which is 28.8% more than in 2021 ($9.8 million). 

Kazakhstan has shown its keen interest to expand its ties in the fields of military cooperation. Several representatives of the Armed Forces of Kazakhstan have already been trained since 2005 in military schools of Pakistan. Kazakhstan takes benefits from Pakistan’s expertise in combating terrorism. Joint counter terrorist exercises “Dostarym-2017”, were held in November 2017 at the National Anti-Terrorist Centre of the Pakistan and “Dostarym-2019” was held in 2019 which enhanced operational, strategic, and tactical military cooperation between both the countries. 

Kazakhstan being the largest landlocked country has no direct links with Pakistan. Lack of direct connection is a serious barrier for economic and trade cooperation and coordination. There is need to work on plans to enhance the connectivity in the future. Strong political commitments and incorporations of the private companies can help to achieve this goal of regional connectivity that will help in economic integration and prosperity in both the countries.

Pakistan has keen interest in strengthen bilateral relations with Kazakhstan through the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Pakistan can provide shortest land route Kazakhstan for access to the Arabian Sea which can be mutually beneficial for both countries. Both countries have potential to extend their cooperation in the field of energy such as oil and gas. Pakistan and Kazakhstan both have agrarian economy therefore they should enhance cooperation in this field.

Both the countries should consider utilizing the potential links through connection of railways Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran and Pakistan-Iran-Turkey. It would be completely consistent with Kazakhstan’s New Economic Policy ‘Nurly Zhol’ and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. Pakistan’s access to western China and Central Asia has been expanded by Karakoram Highway in the 2000s that can be utilized to enhance regional connectivity in this regard. 

A tripartite agreement (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan) should be considered to strengthen cooperation in tourism as they already signed a “Joint Visa Mechanism” for the promotion of tourism sector. In this regard, direct flights should be started between two countries. There is an urgent need to revise entire range of bilateral relations to achieve the desired goals in the future. Special focus should be given to the areas of trade, economy, energy, science and technology, education and more importantly connectivity between Pakistan and Kazakhstan. We hope that through diversified land routes and integrated trade agreements both the countries will explore unlimited potential that would be mutually beneficial in the coming days.  

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