By J Nastranis
NEW YORK | ASTANA (IDN) – As Kazakhstan inches towards celebrating 25th anniversary of its independence on December 16, senior officials from the European Union, Russia and China as well as parliamentarians and experts from several countries have commended the country's achievements since 1991 and welcomed its new international role as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council beginning January 2017 for two years.
Chairman of the Mazhilis (lower chamber of Parliament) Nurlan Nigmatulin reflected the views of participants in an international conference in Astana, when he said the election of Kazakhstan, as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2017-2018 was a "convincing evidence of the high international authority of Kazakhstan and its leader Nursultan Nazarbayev".
Nigmatulin highlighted Kazakhstan’s international successes where the country demonstrated its commitment to the principles of multilateral cooperation and to supporting durable peace, security and development.
With Kazakhstan joining the Security Council, Central Asia will be represented for the first time in its history the United Nations' most powerful body, with "primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security".
Five powerful countries – USA, Russia, China, Britain and France - sit in the Council as "permanent members" along with ten elected members with two-year terms. Kazakh membership is expected to provide an opportunity to attract the attention of the Security Council to regional security issues.
"Our main idea is to transform the Central Asian region into a zone of peace, cooperation and security. We hope that our regional experience and the experience of [chairing] major international organisations… will be useful for solving the vital issues of peace and security on the agenda of the UN Security Council,” said Nigmatulin addressing the opening session of the conference on November 29, entitled 25th Anniversary of Independence of Kazakhstan: Outcomes. Accomplishments. Vision for the Future.
The conference was part of the celebrations of country’s quarter century of independence on December 16.
What the country had accomplished over 25 years since independence was not an easy task, stressed Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov who spoke about the challenges of creating foreign policy from a scratch in 1991.
“Despite our size as one of the world’s largest countries, few could find us on a map. Those who did know where Kazakhstan was saw a country which was remote, landlocked, underdeveloped, multi-ethnic, burdened with environmental problems – and surrounded by powerful neighbours. Many feared that those formidable challenges we had to deal with threatened our very survival as a sovereign nation,” Idrissov said in an impassioned speech.
The clear vision of Kazakhstan’s founding President Nazarbayev, of making Kazakhstan an economically competitive and democratically mature nation had helped shape Kazakh foreign policy to develop on two main pillars.
"First, adopting a balanced foreign policy model based on openness towards the outside world and promoting equal, respectful and mutually beneficial relations with all our partners, near and far. Secondly, assuming the role of a responsible and trusted citizen of the world committed to contributing to global security and progress,” Idrissov explained.
Those pillars have positioned Kazakhstan as a visible international player, he added. “After 25 years of independence, Kazakhstan has truly secured the role of a genuine geographic, economic and political bridge between East and West and we do our best today to function as such,” Idrissov said.
Another big step at the dawn of Kazakhstan’s independence, he added, was the decision to shut down the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site and become an active leader in nuclear disarmament worldwide.
“Together with our neighbours, we established the Central Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, an initiative that has won the backing of all the major nuclear powers. We further believe that regional nuclear-weapon-free zones … must be established and expanded. The establishment of such zones, particularly in the Middle East, would be a major step towards reducing tensions and distrust globally,” the Kazakh Foreign Minister said.
He referred in this context to Nazarbayev launching the ATOM (Abolish Testing. Our Mission) Project in 2012, an international education and civic activism campaign against nuclear weapons testing.
“Currently approximately 300,000 people from about 120 countries have supported The ATOM Project’s online petition calling on global leaders to ensure the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty,” Idrissov said.
He listed major events such as Kazakhstan’s participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action following the reaching of the deal between P5+1 countries and Iran, the establishment of the world’s first Low-Enriched Uranium Bank and the initiative that led to the adoption of the Universal Declaration on the Achievement of a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World by the United Nations.
“All of these achievements came true because of Kazakhstan’s internationally recognised moral responsibility and right to champion the cause of peace and nuclear disarmament. And I am proud that our country stands for these goals around the world. Indeed, nowhere is our commitment to global security clearer than in the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation,” he declared.
The European Union's Special Representative for Central Asia Peter Burian said that Kazakhstan had earned a solid international reputation as an important contributor to peace and stability regionally and globally. “The European Union has since the very beginning welcomed and supported Kazakhstan as a sovereign and independent nation,” Burian said.
He added that the EU supports Kazakhstan’s ambition to become one of the most prosperous and developed nations and a member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
“EU wants to continue to be a reliable partner for Kazakhstan in its process of transformation and modernisation, sharing our experience and advanced technologies.
"We hope that Astana EXPO 2017 will provide another opportunity for establishing new partnerships between our companies and research institutions and their Kazakh counterparts for moving our relationship to a qualitatively new, higher level and contributing to increased competitiveness and diversification of the Kazakh economy,” Burian added.
Vladimir Vasiliev, deputy chairman of the Russian Duma said: “Kazakhstan’s achievements are very high. Today it is one of the world’s economic development leaders with an active political position. The fact that we have a strong economic potential, especially the potential of our community, especially Russia and Kazakhstan … is to the merit of the presidents of our states, our Parliaments, which consistently create all conditions for policy directions to be implemented.”
Kazakhstan’s economic achievements were lauded at the Astana conference. Xu Jian, deputy president of the China Institute of International Studies under the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Kazakhstan had become an island of stability in Central Asia for its long-term political stability and harmony between the ethnic groups and religions.
The country has also seen sustained economic development, with gross domestic product increasing by 23 times and GDP growth staying at more than 8 percent for 10 years in a row. “People’s living standards improved significantly and the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per capital reached $14,000,” he said.
“Under the leadership of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan abolished the planned economy, steadily promoted the reform of marketisation and privatisation and walked out of the economic downturn,” he added. [IDN-InDepthNews – 04 December 2016]
IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.
Photo: Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov addressing Astana Conference. Credit: The Astana Times.