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30 Years of Kazakh Independence: Challenges, Achievements and Prospects

(Press Release):- The forthcoming thirtieth anniversary of Kazakh independence gives us pause for thought about what has been achieved, and the opportunities for future development. If we speak in the words of the nation’s leadership about the ‘Kazakh Path,’ then this is not limited to an economic model, but also a political model which includes constitutional provisions and infrastructure. The preservation of the ethnic and religious consensus in a fragile region determined this path, with security as the foremost concern, starting from nuclear disarmament and borders, to the fight against terrorism.

Adopted in 1991, the Constitutional Law on the State Independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan secured the emergence of a new nation in the heart of Eurasia. This required a plan, the first example of which was the ‘Strategy for the formation and development of Kazakhstan as a sovereign state,’ which can be referred to as the first three-year-plan. Upon independence, it was necessary to create institutions, gain international recognition, and join international organisations. With a historical overview, the document made it clear the state was not someone’s gift, but the primordial Kazakh land. A clear signal as regards the integrity of the nation, it was an important statement in such an unstable period.

The development of a state with a strong presidential powerbase allowed the nation to solve urgent problems and implement reforms. Incredible efforts were utilised in the formation of ministries and institutions. The strategy also enunciated two basic economic principles: a market economy based on competition and economic self-determination.

The home of the world’s largest nuclear weapons test site, upon independence Kazakhstan inherited 1,216 nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles, the fourth largest nuclear arsenal in the world. From 1947, Kazakhstan acted as the main source of uranium and a hub of the military-industrial complex in the USSR. With the support of the international community, primarily the U.S., Kazakhstan renounced this legacy. This historic step would subsequently play an important role in the nation’s formation as an economically advanced state.

In 1994, the USA, UK and Russia signed the Budapest Memorandum, guaranteeing the sovereignty of Kazakhstan and pledging not to threaten by force its territorial integrity and independence. Shortly thereafter, China and France provided similar guarantees, and Kazakhstan joined the UN, World Bank, IMF and other international organisations. Thereafter, there was an influx of international investment, particularly in the oil and gas sector.

Kazakhstan has become renowned for its nuclear non-proliferation policy. In 1994, the secret Kazakh-American operation, ‘Sapphire’ saw 600 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium transported from the Ulba metallurgical plant to the U.S. In cooperation with the U.S. and Russia, the enhancement of the safety of plutonium left on the Semipalatinsk test site was undertaken. Kazakhstan assumed the stipulations of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and together with its regional neighbours created a nuclear-weapon-free Central Asia.

Besides its negative impact, this nuclear legacy also brought positive developments: infrastructure and expertise which could be used for peaceful purposes. Kazakhstan is one of the few countries in the world in which the nuclear fuel cycle is available. The presence of a developed nuclear industry also contributed to the nation’s international standing, allowing Kazakhstan to help negotiate a nuclear agreement with Iran and offer support for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

In 2006, the American NGO, Nuclear Threat Initiative proposed $50 million for the creation of an international bank of low enriched uranium, providing access to uranium fuel to reduce the motivation of countries to develop their own cycle. The international community raised another $100 million, and in 2010 the IAEA approved the project. Kazakhstan became the only country to offer its candidacy for the placement of the bank. The republic was well suited for this role, being more attractive for developing countries as a non-Western state.

Over the past three decades, Kazakhstan has sought to ensure interfaith tolerance and the intercultural harmony in a modern secular state. Today, Kazakhstan is deeply integrated into international processes, has entered the main financial institutions, and has attracted multibillion-dollar flows of foreign investment.

Since independence, Kazakhstan has established diplomatic relations with 180 states and chaired the OSCE, OIC, EAEU, SCO, CIS, CSTO, CICA, and the Turkic Council. The state has also launched a regular congress of religious leaders, entered the WTO, mediated in conflict resolution, and in 2017-2018 was a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Multifaceted relations with Russia continue in the Eurasian Economic Union, the CIS and the CSTO. Strategic cooperation with China is being strengthened: the countries are developing transit links through the Nurly Zhol program and the Belt and Road Initiative. Kazakhstan aims to further its partnership with the U.S. in trade, investment and security.

Similar priorities dominate relations with the EU, Kazakhstan’s largest trade and investment partner, whilst Kazakhstan continues to strengthen its ties with post-Soviet nations. As an integral part of the Islamic world, Kazakhstan continues to deepen cooperation with the Middle and Near East, and intends to step up efforts in Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa.

Over $300 billion in investment has been attracted since independence, 70% of the total inflow into Central Asia. With a vast territory and rich natural resources at the junction between East and West, throughout its history Kazakhstan has experienced the influence of various cultures and synthesised their values on the Great Silk Road. Combined with the nomadic past, this has influenced such qualities as openness, hospitality, and sensitivity to the values of others. Taken together, this has allowed Kazakhstan to determine its place in the world and the principles of its multi-vector foreign policy.

Kazakhstan is actively involved in implementing transport and logistics projects, allowing it to act as link between Asia and Europe. This includes the development of transport corridors: North-South, Europe-Caucasus-Asia, Trans-Caspian, China-Turkey-Europe, and Western Europe-Western China. The republic

is also implementing ‘dry ports’ such as the free economic zone, Khorgos, through which goods are shipped from China to Central Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

Kazakhstan uses its presence in the Caspian Sea zone, providing transportation of oil cargo. Measures are being taken to expand the capacity at Aktau, increasing the volume of shipments to 20 million tons a year. At the complex in Kuryk, 1.2 million tons of cargo have been handled in the past eleven months. With a capacity of 4.1 million tons per year, the transportation of goods by rail has increased since the opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars line.

In May 2014, a Kazakh logistics terminal was opened in the Chinese port of Lianyungang. Over the past couple of years, export-import between the two states has exceeded eight million tons. Khorgos is connected to the logistics terminal, allowing delivery of goods from China to Europe in the shortest possible time.

Since independence, Kazakhstan has implemented reforms and become one of the world’s fast-growing states. The model of Kazakhstan has comprised radical, but not ‘shock’ reforms, building a market economy without weakening state power. Kazakhstan has developed more successfully than any other post-Soviet country, making use of its natural resources and attracting foreign capital. All this would have been impossible, however, if Kazakhstan had not abandoned its nuclear weapons.

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