Democracy has no chance in a poor society
(L) Nurlan Mussin Chargé d’affaires a.i. Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Kingdom of Norway with (R) Hatef Mokhtar Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times
Honorable Charge de Affair of Kazakhstan to Norway, ‘The Oslo Times’ welcomes you to an exclusive interview with its Editor in Chief and Editorial Board panel. It is indeed a privilege to be with you and exchange views with you on a range of important global issues…
TOT: Since its independence in 1991, Kazakhstan has remained one of the star economies of the CIS, and of Central Asian region. So, what has been the basic formula behind this success? Please elaborate…
Charge de Affair: First of all, I would like to thank Oslo Times and you personally for your interest towards our country.
Kazakhstan has been hidden from the eyes of those in Europe for quite a while. It’s been only 20 years since we joined the international community as an independent nation and we still have a lot to do to educate the world about us.
Therefore, our Embassy appreciates very much this opportunity to tell to the readers of The Oslo Times about our young nation.
In 1991, when Soviet Union virtually ceased to exist, the situation in this former empire was very tense. Political elites in many parts of the former Soviet Union pursued policies based on emotions and lacked vision and wisdom much needed by their long suffering people.
People throughout Soviet Union wanted freedom, dignity and prosperity. What they had at that time was hunger, poverty, lack of security and unknown future. As it happened many times in the history of humankind, irresponsible politicians turned to populism and the search for scapegoats. “Blame the “other” slogan used by them had led to bloody conflicts in Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Russia and Tajikistan. In many other places the situation was equally tense.
It was an environment of mutual distrust and anger that could lead to major military conflicts the types of which the world had witnessed in Yugoslavia.
This was not a scenario people and political leadership of Kazakhstan wanted. So, our President decided that something had to be done and invited the leaders of all the republics to come to Kazakhstan to discuss how to move further after the de-facto end of the Soviet Union.
In 1991 on a cold December day in Almaty these leaders gathered to adopt the document called “Almaty Declaration” which paved the way to peaceful and civilized break-up of the biggest empire on the face of the Earth and ushered in the new era of independence for these nations.
This document and this decision by our President laid the foundation of peaceful and stable development of the Kazakh nation. After centuries of colonialism the dream of our forefathers had been fulfilled – Kazakhstan became independent. And it happened without a single shot or any loss of life. This, however, does not mean that we appreciate our independence any less because of that fact.
As soon as Kazakhstan became independent, we faced enormous challenges in all areas of a nation’s life – security, foreign relations, unsettled borders, poverty, crumbling industries, shortage of food, no money in the system. Western experts at that time had also mentioned multiethnic nature of our society as the biggest threat to the country’s future existence.
Bold reforms and steadfast policies were required to deal with all these challenges. Moreover, the country needed visionary leadership and sincere unity of people.
Thank God, we had both of these prerequisites.
Throughout the 1990’s we had been simultaneously implementing market reforms and privatization of the economy, securing our borders, establishing diplomatic service, creating armed forces, building national financial system, launching national currency, replacing Soviet laws with the new democratic, free market legislation.
Our people proved many outsiders who doubted the future of multiethnic Kazakhstan that they were wrong. We turned the diversity of our population into our strength providing a vivid example to the world that tolerance and multiculturalism work if they are based on sincere mutual respect, sincere love and sincere appreciation of each other’s culture.
In 10 years – by 2001 – Kazakhstan was a functional state with all the attributes of a sovereign nation with the growing economy and a rapidly developing middle class and civil society. The country has enjoyed an average 10% GDP growth in the following years.
Kazakhstan is the most successful economy in the post-Soviet space. In 2003 we were the first among them to receive the “free market economy” status and the first to repay all our debt to international financial institutions – ahead of the schedule.
Kazakhstan has made significant progress toward developing a socially-oriented market economy. GDP per capita has grown almost ten times – from USD 1,200 to around USD 11,300.
Kazakhstan is blessed with natural resources. But, as you very well know, this can also be a curse. Having mineral resources is not enough for success. There are plenty of examples of the opposite in the world. If a nation wants to ensure sustainable development and continued economic growth, if it wants to continue raising standards of living, it needs to work hard by developing its society and economy in all their aspects.
Kazakhstan continues with the reforms that are currently aimed at diversification of the economy and raising living standards – from healthcare to education.
So coming back to your question – What has been the basic formula behind Kazakhstan’s success? – I would say that it was the combination of three things – people’s unity, their hard work and responsible and visionary policies of the country’s leadership.
A few examples of that.
According to the most recent World Bank report, Kazakhstan is placed among the top 20 countries which are most attractive for foreign investment (FDI). In the post-Soviet space we are number one in attracting FDI.
In the last 15 years our country has attracted more than USD 150 billion of foreign direct investments. This is the highest FDI per capita rate in our part of the world.
Foreign investments are now received not only by the country’s traditional extractive industries. More and more of our foreign partners are looking to contribute to other sectors of the economy. And we have examples of successful investors such as General Electric (production of railroad locomotives), Tele2 and Telia Sonera (mobile communications), Arcelor Mittal (steel production), Euro Chem (fertilizers) and many others.
Kazakhstan continues to do a lot in terms of creating most comfortable environment for business – both local and foreign. According to the latest World Bank’s Doing Business report, Kazakhstan has moved 15 positions up in the rankings in just one year showing strong progress in protecting investors, paying taxes. We have now entered the world’s best 50 economies for doing business. In 2011 the World Bank named Kazakhstan the world’s #1 business regulation reformer.
TOT: Having played a host and an active member of OSCE which has outshined the diplomatic achievements, and success of Kazakhstan at large and which is also a level of prestige to the country. What would you have to say on this and how this had become possible for a newly independent country which is still progressing, and needs to enhance its ties in other parts of the globe?
Charge de Affair: Kazakhstan has been one of the most active member-states of the OSCE since the creation of the Organization.
Many experts believe that OSCE had failed to turn itself into an effective organization able to solve many problems that exist in the area from Vancouver to Vladivostok.
They point out to the fact that the OSCE had failed to convene its Summits since 1999 when Norway chaired the Organization. Indeed, there are significant differences in views, positions and approaches between its members. And these differences can be attributed to the fact that OSCE members could not even gather their leaders during these 11 years. The OSCE members have also not been able to adopt its Charter – a founding document any international organization is supposed to have in order to function properly!
Kazakhstan, however, continues to believe that OSCE has a significant potential to contribute and promote security and cooperation. After all, the OSCE stands for Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
That is why we decided to exercise our right as an OSCE member and assume the Presidency of the Organization.
In 2010 all members of OSCE unanimously decided to elect Kazakhstan as their next chair, making it the first Asian nation with predominantly Muslim population to chair this Euro-Atlantic organization. It is worth mentioning that Kazakhstan was also the first post-Soviet state to receive unanimous backing of all members of the OSCE.
Kazakh chairmanship aimed at helping the Organization to deal with its major shortcomings –dominance of the ideological rhetoric and distrust that exists between some of its members.
Within a short period of time we had tried to build bridges and raise confidence level between various members. Kazakhstan had tried to generate much needed political will to make the lives of people populating the OSCE area more secure and just.
We did manage to convene the Summit of the Organization – first in 11 years. It was an important and unique opportunity for the members to try to solve many existing problems. At this Summit all leaders unanimously adopted Astana Declaration “Towards a Security Community” expressing their will to start addressing some of the pressing issues.
It is of course a very time-consuming effort to tackle numerous problems that have been piling up for decades in the OSCE area. These problems range from environmental and social challenges to “frozen” conflicts and transnational crime.
That’s why we have also put on tracks initiatives and plans that have been passed on to the Presidencies that followed us in 2011 and 2012. After all, this Organization unites 56 nations and it requires support of all of them to move forward any issue – small or big.
OSCE Presidency was an important milestone and a useful experience for Kazakhstan and its diplomatic service. We hope it also served OSCE in terms of making it more aware of the security, economic and environmental challenges that exist in our part of the world, such as Aral Sea catastrophe and lack of transit infrastructure that would effectively connect Europe with Asia.
And I would agree with you – the Presidency also helped us to enhance ties with other member-states. A good example: first ever official visit by Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister to Norway happened in 2010 in his capacity as the OSCE Chairman-in-Office.
TOT: With Kazakhstan being a part of OSCE and in other various kinds of engagements with the European Union, how you will define the strategic role and the part which Kazakhstan has played till now to enhance its ties and strategic partnerships with Norway?
Charge de Affair: Indeed, Kazakhstan has been actively cooperating with individual countries in Europe, with the European Union, as well as within various regional groupings. We are an active NATO partner and work together with its members in many areas such as maintaining our capabilities to participate in the UN-led peacekeeping missions and holding joint military exercises. Kazakhstan also provides support to NATO mission in Afghanistan.
We also have a solid dialog with the Council of Europe and last October this dialog was furthered as a result of the CE Secretary General Torbjørn Jagland’s visit to Astana. Following the visit Kazakhstan joined the European Commission for Democracy through Law (so-called Venice Commission). Before that we joined the Bologna Process which opened for Kazakhstan the way to European educational standards. We have also expressed our interest in joining other mechanisms under the auspices of the Council of Europe.
When it comes to our cooperation with the European Union – there is really an extensive and deep partnership in virtually all areas. Suffice to say that Kazakhstan and EU have concluded as early as in 1995 a very important document – Agreement on partnership and cooperation. Kazakhstan and EU hold annual meetings on various levels.
To reflect the growing and strengthening ties between us we are now discussing conclusion of the new Agreement on Extended Partnership and Cooperation which will cover foreign affairs, security, justice, political development, trade, investments, energy, environment, and transport.
We are ready to expand and deepen our partnership with Europe in all these areas and hope that our European partners will act reciprocally.
European Union is the number one trade partner for Kazakhstan and the volume of trade keeps growing very fast: in 2010 – USD 38 bln., in 2011 – USD 50 bln.
Norway not being a member of the European Union is, nevertheless, a very special partner for Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan considers Norway as the best model in managing natural resources – whether it is environmental standards or social and macroeconomic aspects. Our main priority is to learn from the Norwegian experience, like we did, for example, with our National Fund which is based on the Norwegian model – Pension Fund “Global”.
The two countries are indeed very similar in many ways. The similarities between us are not limited to energy or financial sector. There are many similar features in the character of our people, geography and demographics.
We also have similar outlooks on the pressing global issues – from energy security to environment. One of them is also our shared vision of the world free from nuclear weapons.
In all these areas we closely cooperate trying to make a positive difference for our two nations and the rest of the world. We have no doubt that our Norwegian friends and partners are committed to the partnership the same way we are.
We can witness this from growing cooperation and strengthening of bilateral mechanisms between our two nations, especially in the last 2-3 years. Our Embassy in Oslo since its establishment in 2004 remained Kazakhstan’s only diplomatic mission in Scandinavia, while Norway’s only diplomatic representation in the vast Central Asia is its Embassy in Astana. This is also a practical testament to how our two nations see and regard each other.
We can see that investment cooperation is developing; we see that volumes of our traditional exports (Norwegian fish and Kazakh grain) are growing. We are registering record numbers of Norwegians travelling to Kazakhstan during last two years. We have more and more frequent bilateral contacts and visits on various levels – from Royal family members and Cabinet ministers to sportsmen, artists and just tourists.
We are quite satisfied with the dynamics and direction of our bilateral partnership and we are determined to maintain this good pace.
TOT: Since both the countries are producers and suppliers of hydrocarbons so how you look the relations of Norway and Kazakhstan can be strengthen in terms of energy cooperation in the long run?
Charge de Affair: As I said before, Norway is a model for Kazakhstan in the way it had developed its energy industries, protects the environment and keeps expanding and strengthening its capacity in this area. We want to learn and Norway is ready to share this good knowledge.
To that end Kazakhstan and Norway established in 2007 the Bilateral Working Group on Energy Cooperation. We have successfully held four annual meetings since then, last of which happen recently – on October 2nd of this year. The dialogue within this bilateral mechanism covers issues spanning from technical education to environment and local content in addition to traditional cooperation in the oil/gas sector.
We are very interested in having more Norwegian companies in the oil/gas sector of Kazakhstan. We are confident they will bring along higher environmental, labor and technological standards, as well as useful Norwegian experience of increasing local content in the industry.
Norwegian service and engineering companies, such as Statoil, Aker Solutions, Kvaerner, Aibel, Kaefer and others know that opportunities in Kazakhstan are abundant.
In 2010, our two national companies «KazMunaiGaz» and «Statoil» decided to establish strategic partnership to work together on the shelf of the Caspian Sea. Currently, the two sides are in the final stages of negotiations and hopefully their partnership will serve as a locomotive for other Kazakh and Norwegian companies to establish joint businesses in this or other sectors.
Kazakhstan is now bidding for the right to host professional exhibition EXPO-2017 in Astana which will be held under the topic “Energy of the Future”. Kazakhstan with this EXPO wants to contribute to the global discussion of our planet’s energy future.
This forum will also provide a wonderful opportunity for Norway to highlight and advance its role in this discussion, as well as showcase its prominent energy industry.
We are glad to see that both Kazakhstan and Norway work tirelessly to strengthen and expand our bilateral energy cooperation.
TOT: What are the key strategic areas where Kazakhstan seeks cooperation with Norway to gain expertise and economic cooperation in near future?
Charge de Affair: Traditionally, energy sector, specifically – oil and gas, has been the primary area for our cooperation. But there are several areas where I believe we could have mutually beneficial cooperation as well.
Kazakhstan is a large agricultural producer playing significant role in providing global food security. We are in the Top 5 exporters of wheat and the world’s #1 exporter of wheat flour for 6 years in a row now –since 2006. Our farmers supply with grain all of Central Asia, Caucasus, countries of Northern Africa and the Middle East. Our wheat exports to Norway have risen from 3,000 tons in 2009 to 43,000 in 2011.
There is an enormous potential in production of milk, meat and poultry in Kazakhstan. These industries are now in the development stage which creates unique opportunities for Norwegian food producing companies to establish themselves in Kazakhstan and benefit from comfortable business environment while having direct access and close proximity to the enormous markets of China, Russia, Central and South Asia – with total population approaching 3 billion people.
This is just one example but we would welcome Norwegian businesses in all other industries – mining, electricity, telecommunications, machine-building, metallurgy, etc.
TOT: As per the foreign policy goals set by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Yerzhan Kazykhanov for establishing a UN Secretariat in the country while making Astana a regional hub for diplomacy. So how far you see the progress in this direction has been made by Kazakhstan?
Charge de Affair: First, it is important to stress that there is no such foreign policy goal set by us as to establish a UN Secretariat in Astana.
Indeed, our President and later former Foreign Minister Mr. Kazykhanov have put forward an idea to establish in Almaty a regional center for UN regional activities.
There are already 16 sub-regional offices of various UN agencies which have been working successfully in Almaty for quite a while. These offices deal with the host of issues of regional and global significance. In our view we have come to a point when all these activities would benefit from coordinated approach and leadership.
Our region represents a significant part of the world by its sheer territory and size of its population. A number of nations in our part of the world require long-term assistance from the international community. One of them is Afghanistan. Stability and progress in this country is a priority for the region and for the world. Having an effective regional office of the United Nations in the center of the region – Kazakhstan – will serve that goal.
The idea is there for discussion by the UN and its members. We look forward to participate in this discussion.
TOT: Being a Oil & Gas producer and exporter, is this justified to sell oil and gas artificially at lower price to Russia when Kazakhstan can provide the same at existing market prices? Will this not be the loss to the exchequer of Kazakhstan’s Federal Reserve’s and un-rewarding exploitation of its natural resources?
Charge de Affair: Let me first start by explaining the break-down of the oil production in Kazakhstan. Around 75% of all oil extracted in Kazakhstan is produced by foreign companies: British Gas, Chevron, ENI, ExxonMobil, Lukoil, CNPC and others. The rest is produced by our national oil and gas company “KazMunaiGaz” and smaller local companies. All these companies, including KazMunaiGaz are responsible to their shareholders for generating as much profit as possible.
Our Government is too very much interested in having as much income from the oil/gas sector as possible, whether it comes in the form of taxes, royalties, direct profit, etc.
So, to answer your question directly: it is not justified for these companies to sell their products artificially at lower prices to Russia or anyone else. That is why these companies do not do it. Otherwise there is no reason for them to engage in this business.
As far as I know, most of the oil produced in Kazakhstan is sold to EU countries, and now increasingly to China. I have not heard of significant sales of oil to Russia, which, as you know, is one of the biggest producers of oil and natural gas in the world.
TOT: The relations of your country with Russia has always remained volatile and on a mode of fluctuations where former oppose the unlimited use of Baikonur Cosmodrome whereas later objects the cooperation with the US over ‘War on Terror’ whose influence is also growing in the region?
Charge de Affair: To answer your question I would have to start with correcting its introductory clause.
Our relations with Russia have always been stable and are characterized by high level of trust and dynamic cooperation in all areas. Russia is our biggest neighbor, major trading and economic partner, and a close friend and ally. We have recently formed Customs Union to make it easier for local and foreign businesses to operate in our countries.
When we face a complex issue that requires more attention and effort to be resolved, we deal with it as good neighbors and friends do – in an amicable and mutually beneficial way. Baikonur Cosmodrome is no exception. Our governments and respective agencies work closely together to make it effective and environmentally safe, so this unique space complex could continue to be beneficial for our two countries and for the whole world.
Never have we received any objections from our Russian friends regarding our cooperation with the United States, including on the joint efforts against international terrorism. Moreover, Russia and the US are themselves close partners and cooperate successfully on these issues. To my knowledge, Russia provides various types of assistance to US and NATO forces including providing its territory and airspace for the completion of the mission in Afghanistan. Our countries do many things together in a multilateral framework, as well.
Kazakhstan, Russia and the USA are not the only nations cooperating in combating international terrorism. We are joined by virtually all of the international community and we believe this is the right approach when dealing with such global threat as international terrorism.
One good example is GINCT. In 2006 Russia and United States jointly created Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GINCT) and asked Kazakhstan to join it. During these past 6 years 82 more nations have joined GINCT to strengthen global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear terrorism.
We do not see relations between Russia, United States, China or European Union as competition, when it comes to their cooperation with Kazakhstan or other nations in the region. As far as Kazakhstan is concerned, we welcome cooperation with all of them and the rest of the world. For our landlocked nation this is the only way to proceed – by interacting and cooperating with everyone around us. This is the basis of our foreign policy concept.
TOT: Being an active member of Shanghai CO-Operation how would you define the role and success of this organization have achieved in the establishing peace and security in the member countries as well as in the region which is still being one of the most volatile and unexplored regions of the world?
Charge de Affair: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization was initially formed by newly independent states bordering China as a mechanism to resolve border issues that used to exist between USSR and People’s Republic of China. Success of that mechanism and its positive experience led to the decision by the involved parties to establish in 2001 the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Since then the SCO has become a functional multilateral institution recognized by the world community for its active assistance in maintaining peace and security, dealing with modern threats and challenges, as well as stimulating economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation in the SCO area.
The SCO is now a good example to the rest of the world of how nations of different economic, political, industrial and geographic “size” can still cooperate in a friendly, good-neighborly and equal partnership.
Currently, the agenda of the SCO includes security, economic and humanitarian “baskets”. Kazakhstan believes in parallel and balanced development of these three baskets.
There are also particular areas where we believe SCO can play an important role, such as energy and transit infrastructure. Dynamic cooperation between the SCO members in all these areas will have a positive effect on a broader region.
TOT: “The boundary disputes of almost all the nations of CIS has almost been resolved with their neighbours, however; the Caspian sea boundary is still governed by the international law and remained unsettled which now with growing international thirst for Caspian oil and its exploitation has becoming a frequently arising issue in day to day regional politics”. How will you elaborate the point of dispute where it lies and has now become a bone of serious contention among the Caspian nations which Kazakhstan too shares its waters?
Charge de Affair: Determination of the legal status of the Caspian Sea is of very high importance for Kazakhstan. We believe that this unique water body should serve the best interests of the Caspian states and that it should be treated by them in a responsible manner. Kazakhstan stands for demilitarization of the Caspian and for freedom of transit by all means of transport as well as for the access to other seas and the World Ocean, as stipulated in several universal international agreements.
All five Caspian states (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia) are currently discussing the draft Convention on legal status of the Caspian Sea. There is a Special Working Group that is working on the text of the Convention.
There have been three Summits of the Presidents. At the last Summit in 2010 the Presidents signed the Agreement on Security Cooperation in the Caspian Sea.
At Kazakhstan’s initiative, the five leaders have also agreed to start working on a mechanism to put in place a 5-year moratorium on sturgeon fishing in the Caspian Sea. Currently, the parties are working out a text of the relative Agreement.
Kazakhstan was quite satisfied with the outcome of the Summit since our partners have also agreed there to adopt an approach that had been advocated by Kazakhstan from the very beginning of multilateral consultations on the legal status of the Caspian. This approach is to follow provisions of the UN Convention on Sea Law by establishing for each state its territorial sea, fishing zone and designating the remaining as common waters.
As you can see, Kazakhstan and its Caspian partners have made some progress in this regard given the very different positions they had at the beginning. Therefore, we are quite optimistic about the prospects of settling this issue. All five Caspian nations appreciate the fact that this process has been developing in a calm and constructive atmosphere, as it should be between partners and neighbors.
TOT: With its withdrawal by Uzbekistan from the member states of Commonwealth of Independent States Peacekeeping forces second time, will this means that CIS operations and its existence is now becoming less important in the diplomatic and regional cooperation as well in the bilateral / regional relations of the member states, of which Kazakhstan too is a member?
Charge de Affair: I would have to start by explaining what Commonwealth of Independent States (or CIS) is. I think it is important for Oslo Times readers to know how it works and it will make it easier for me to try to answer your question.
CIS is an organization where most of the former Soviet republics are members. Membership in CIS is voluntary, as is members’ participation in different areas of cooperation within the Commonwealth.
CIS members selectively participate in various areas of multilateral cooperation depending on the interests and wishes of each member-state. Therefore, decisions of CIS bodies apply only to those members that decide to participate in a particular issue. For example, there are 66 areas of cooperation, stemming from trade and social issues to transport and law enforcement. Not all members participate in each area.
CIS has proven to be the most optimal form of multilateral cooperation since its members differ from each other quite considerably.
There are, however, forms of cooperation where all members participate. These are so-called “charter bodies”, such as Council of Heads of State, Council of Heads of Government, Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, Foreign Ministers’ Council, etc. There is also a permanent institution, called CIS Executive Committee that deals with day-to-day work.
In my answer to your first question I mentioned the historic meeting convened in our former capital Almaty in December of 1991 when the leaders of the republics of former USSR agreed to civilized and peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union. At that meeting the Almaty Declaration was adopted which effectively laid down the basis for establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
The vitality of CIS can be explained by certain important principles upon which it is based. First and foremost, it is voluntary membership, respect of sovereignty and the right to choose the form, depth and degree of participation for each member-state.
CIS is now more than 20 years old and it continues to prove its important historic mission in many political and economic processes both regionally and globally. By the way, in 2008 Afghan officials approached CIS with the request to join the organization. Today Afghanistan has an observer status at the CIS IPA.
Uzbekistan has been and remains to be a founding member of the CIS which, by the way, does not have peacekeeping forces in it. Hence, there have been no CIS operations in this regard.
Now, there is another international entity called Collective Security Treaty Organization (or CSTO).
CSTO is not CIS but a completely different organization with different membership.
Kazakhstan views CSTO as a consultative body with a security and defense cooperation orientation and which is open to cooperation with other international organizations on security issues.
As in CIS, there are no peacekeeping forces within the CSTO, as well.
Currently, CSTO has several elements of cooperation. One of them is the development of the Collective Rapid Reaction Force. The force was established back in 2009 to repulse external military aggression, conduct anti-terrorist operations, fight transnational crime and drug trafficking, and neutralize the effects of natural disasters.
CSTO has never participated in a combat mission.
When it comes to Uzbekistan’s cooperation with CSTO, it is important to know the history of CSTO.
The membership in the CSTO is voluntary and at different periods it varied between 6 and 9 nations.
Between 1992 and 2003 cooperation on security issues was conducted with in an agreement on collective security which was signed by 9 nations. Uzbekistan was among those nations that signed this document. In 1999 Uzbekistan withdrew from it because it joined another organization, called GUUAM.
In 2003 the CSTO was established as an organization. In 2005 Uzbekistan withdrew from GUUAM and joined CSTO in 2006.
In June of 2012 Uzbekistan suspended its membership in the CSTO. The Charter of the organization allows for that and clearly says that “Any state may become a member…” and “Any Member State may withdraw from the Organization…”
Uzbekistan is a sovereign nation that is free to choose forms and scope of its cooperation with other partners both bilaterally and multilaterally. To my knowledge, Uzbekistan continues its cooperation with countries in the region, including on combating threats of terrorism and transnational crime. There are good mechanism for that within both CIS and SCO, which Uzbekistan is a member of.
TOT: How will you define the role being played by Kazakhstan in the cooperation with US and in Afghanistan over ‘War on Terror’? And how you see the bilateral relations of your country with Afghanistan at present and in years to come when International forces would leave Afghanistan?
Charge de Affair: This is a very good question which has three elements in it: global cooperation against international terrorism, our cooperation with the United States in this regard, as well as Kazakhstan’s bilateral cooperation with Afghanistan.
These issues are somewhat interconnected and sometimes overlap but they are nevertheless are very distinct.
I explained in my answer to one of your previous questions Kazakhstan’s anti-terrorism efforts both bilaterally and within different multilateral frameworks with other countries, including the United States. But in fact, our relations with US are far wider in scope than one issue. We have a 20-year long history of dynamically developing cooperation with the United States in virtually all areas – trade, investments, global security, political dialogue, etc.
Similarly, our cooperation with Afghanistan is not limited to anti-terrorism efforts. Kazakh-Afghan cooperation includes many different areas and I would like to briefly go through some of them.
First of all, Kazakhstan supports and is very much interested in stable and sustainable development of Afghanistan. Economic and social development is the number one requirement for Afghanistan to deal with threats like terrorism, drug trafficking and religious radicalism.
These are threats that the region and the bigger international community suffer from. Kazakhstan believes that the international community under the coordination of the UN, therefore, should contribute and assist Afghanistan working hand in hand with the Afghan Government.
Kazakhstan supports efforts of the Government of Afghanistan to unite the Afghan society and build a stable democratic nation. We believe the government has all essential institutions in place: legislature, executive, courts, military and law enforcement forces, etc.
However, external assistance is still needed. Kazakhstan participates in various international mechanisms which try to coordinate the efforts of the international community to lay the basis for sustainable economic development of Afghanistan.
We also support Afghanistan’s involvement in the regional processes which are aimed at better cooperation, integration and confidence-building.
On the bilateral level we continue to provide technical and humanitarian assistance supplying Afghanistan annually with thousands of tons of foodstuff, fuel and equipment. Kazakhstan has financed the construction of the Kundus-Talukan asphalt road, a hospital in Bamian province, and a school in Samangan province, along with other smaller projects.
This year Kazakh Government decided to finance an infrastructure project on the Aibak River in the Samangan province, as well as to support law enforcement in the country.
As you probably know, our President pays special attention to education which he believes is the necessary prerequisite for a prosperous and democratic society. Only a prosperous and educated society can build a sustainable democracy.
In 2010, at the instructions of the President, our government has launched an education program for Afghan students and allocated for that purpose USD 50 million. Up to 1 thousand Afghans will be provided with higher education in Kazakhstan. They will receive medical, engineering, agricultural education, as well as training in law enforcement and border guard schools. First 152 Afghan students have begun their studies in 2010. Last year another 182 students have arrived to study in Kazakh universities. This program will last until 2020.
Kazakhstan also seeks to boost the activities of the Kazak-Afghan intergovernmental commission which should help expand and deepen ties between our countries and coordinate existing areas of cooperation such as the educational program I mentioned before.
We firmly believe that prosperous and stable Afghanistan will become a positive force in the region and Kazakhstan is determined to assist our brothers and neighbors in every way we can.
TOT: Kazakhstan being an important member of Organization of Islamic Countries has remained vigilant and cooperative in terms for providing assistance to many Muslim countries and where community holds a strong ground but till now there is nothing which any media has heard from the leaderships of Kazakhstan for Rohingya Muslims who are being massacred in Myanmar?
Charge de Affair: As you mentioned in your question, Kazakhstan is a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Since July 2011 we are chairing this organization. One of the stated goals of our Chairmanship is to increase the effectiveness of this Organization and move it from discussions to work.
I need to mention here that the first thing we did when we assumed Chairmanship last year was to change the name of the organization from “Organization of Islamic Conference” to “Organization of Islamic Cooperation”. By doing this we wanted to change the mentality around OIC and create a working and pragmatic environment.
It is perhaps unrealistic to see the effects immediately but we hope that our efforts during the Chairmanship will not be in vain. Our chairmanship in the OIC will end in November of this year in Djibouti, at the 39th OIC ministerial.
Now, regarding the issue of Rohingya minority, the lack of media coverage of this issue and Kazakhstan’s position on it.
I think you are directing your question to wrong people. Kazakhstan cannot be held responsible for international media’s editorial policies. Media or those who own them decide how and what issues and news to cover.
Kazakhstan’s representatives have called for appropriate international attention to the situation with the Rohingya community in Myanmar.
As recently as in August our foreign minister said to his colleagues in the OIC: “… the Organization has to assist Muslim minorities and communities outside the Member States…” and that “…Kazakhstan expresses grave concern over numerous reports of violence against Rohingya Muslim minorities in Arakan province and other parts of Myanmar…”
At this meeting chaired by Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister the OIC adopted a document where this issue was addressed directly. Specifically, a fact-finding committee was established which already in September was dispatched in Myanmar for a 10-day investigation. There, an OIC Humanitarian Affairs Office was established. Two weeks later in New York the OIC members met again and established a Joint contact group which will work directly with all relevant parties, including the Myanmar Government, international and regional organizations and bodies.
Kazakhstan believes and supports the involvement of the whole international community in this issue. This is not just a Muslim problem.
We are all human beings and it is very painful to see when human suffering in one case is treated by the media differently than similar suffering in another case.
TOT: Being a Turkic nation and an important member of SCO, what are the steps the Kazak government has taken so far in raising the issue of Uyghur in China with whom your country shares its borders and has good ties on a regional level?
Charge de Affair: We do not see that there is an issue in China that requires and would benefit from Kazakhstan’s involvement.
As far as the issue of territorial integrity is concerned, Kazakhstan believes that this sacred principle of international law should be upheld everywhere not just in China.
At the same time Kazakhstan supports and encourages the development of the vibrant cultural life and preservation of traditions and languages of many different ethnic groups in China, including Uyghurs and Kazakhs. We believe that China only benefits from providing its multiethnic society with opportunities and conditions to thrive and celebrate its diversity.
TOT: “Kazakhstan being an example of efficient leadership and economic progress that too got independent along with other 14 republics from USSR”. So, according to you what are reasons behind the turmoil and collapse in the system of the other neighboring republics like Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan where these nations in this present world are being regarded as some of the major violators of human rights and citizens’ freedom and liberty within their own borders?
Charge de Affair: First of all, thank you very much for your kind evaluation of Kazakhstan’s progress during its independence.
As you correctly pointed out, there were 15 republics in the USSR.
During the years of independence each country pursued its own path of development. So, I think it is wrong to lump them all together and brush them in negative colors. I would certainly disagree with your general assessment of the situation in the countries you mentioned as experiencing “turmoil and collapse”.
All of them are very distinct in terms of culture, history, level of economic or political development. It had been so even during Soviet period. Some republics were more industrially and scientifically oriented, others specialized on agriculture, etc.
Some had democratic traditions even before they were incorporated in the Soviet Union, namely Baltic States, while most others had remained colonies of the Russian Empire and then parts of the Soviet Union for centuries – without any exposure to democracy.
Despite many problems these countries might have (and most of these problems require generations to overcome!), their overall development throughout the last years has been stable and peaceful.
Kazakhstan certainly hopes that peace and stability will remain there, as they provide essential conditions for further growth and development, including democratic development and advancement of human rights.
TOT: How can you define the role and the progress of Kazakhstan in the areas of promoting human rights and freedom of speech on regional and global level?
Charge de Affair: As I have mentioned before, Kazakhstan believes in the rule of law, both nationally and internationally. One of the most important principles of international law is sovereignty. There are also obligations which each nation takes upon itself and is obliged to adhere to. So in this dilemma of how to promote human rights and not end up violating other cultures and sovereignty, Kazakhstan follows this golden rule – “lead by example”.
Parents have success raising their kids not when they yell at them or criticize them constantly but when they show good example, when they are engaged in certain activities together with their kids.
The same way more advanced societies can help promote human rights in less established societies by cooperating not by isolating. Certainly, promotion of human right stands no chance if a society’s economic development is constrained by limiting its trade potential or preventing private investments from going in it. Democracy has no chance in a poor society. Only a strong middle class can ensure human rights –economic, political and social –all of them, including freedom of speech.
Kazakhstan is a developing nation, so we are still in the learning mode rather than teaching. In areas where we are successful, for example, interethnic harmony and religious tolerance, we try to share this positive experience with the world. But we will never impose it on others, recognizing that our experience is unique and it can be applied not everywhere.
A good example of our external activities in this regard might be the Congress of World’s Religions which was initiated by our President and takes place triennially in Astana. This is the only place and mechanism for leaders of the world’s religions to gather in their efforts to promote peace and mutual respect globally.
Sincere mutual respect is what the world needs these days. This is the number one prerequisite for ensuring human rights domestically and globally.
TOT: What kind of role Kazakhstan have played so far on national, regional and international for the promotion of democracy?
Charge de Affair: We do not consider that true democracy can exist or be promoted without ensuring human rights. We believe that human rights can be protected only through dialogue and genuine cooperation.
As I said in my answer to your previous question, the best promotion of democracy is leading by example. As Kazakhstan progresses in the development of its own civil society and rule of law, it will be in a better position to further promote democracy in the region and elsewhere simply by projecting its positive experience and success.
TOT: How would you define the role and existence of Media and the kind of press freedom it enjoys in your country?
Charge de Affair: We in Kazakhstan believe that media is an important part of our life, an important element of the civil society and should serve in its entirety the interests of the whole society.
It should be recognized that quite often media advances interests of certain groups or individuals within the society, usually because of the financial support or ownership.
Sometimes this benefits the whole society but many times it happens at the expense of the majority of people. It is therefore important for any society to ensure plurality of opinion – to let opposing view or alternative position to be heard. It is very dangerous when public discussion is hijacked by one group, which is simply more active, has a louder voice, better financed and uses more innovative approach.
The only way to ensure plurality and sense of objectiveness without infringing on press freedom is to have public media, which is tasked with reporting facts, and will not engage in opinionated agenda-driven journalism.
While overwhelming majority of media In Kazakhstan is privately owned and their number is growing every year, there are still public TV and newspapers outlets supported from the national budget. Currently people have access to all kinds of information and have an access to a variety of opinion, even quite unscrupulous ones.
We believe that only in severe cases, such as when media actions led to loss of human life, the government has to step in and act.
Media in Kazakhstan, as any other institution or a group of organizations, is still young and in the development stage. It is a long process, sometimes very painful. But at the end of the day, it would be up to the society and the media itself to develop a set of principles and values to adhere to. Not everything can be regulated by laws and regulations. Honesty, responsibility and good conscience cannot be legislated.
But people nowadays are increasingly expecting exactly these things from their journalists.
Thank you respected Charge de Affair. We think that this session has indeed been informative and beneficial for The Oslo Times and its readers. Thanks yet again!