We are launching Kazakhstan's Echo as a new project designed to bring our readers a sense of the diversity of opinions from Kazakhstan and on Kazakhstan.
"It is very important to
find one's own place in
the foreign policy area"
Secretary of State- Minister of
Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan
Interview to "Izvestia-Kazakhstan"
newspaper, December 27, 2002
Kazakhstan finds itself in a complex geopolitical position and is a subject of interest of at least three powerful states the United States, China and Russia. At some point, we will probably face difficulties in being equal friends with all of them. That is because, first of all, these nations have quite different interests, and then the relations between themselves are far from ideal. Don't you think Kazakhstan will sooner or later have to abandon the multidimensional foreign policy and make a choice in a strategic partnership?
Tokayev: There can be no single partner in Kazakhstan's position. It is very indicative that the president finishes off this year with visits to Moscow and then Beijing, and just before the New Year, with talks with leaders of the Central Asian states. On the other hand, Kazakhstan-United States relations are developing actively. The U.S. is the most influential nation of the modern world. America's GDP exceeds 10 trillion dollars. The entire Western Europe cannot as yet match that. Everybody takes this into consideration, including China. So when we talk about strategic partnership, first of all, we have to keep in mind our cooperation with Russia, China, neighboring countries of Central Asia, as well as the United States of America.
Kazakhstan cannot limit itself by certain regional, in effect, provincial frames. I agree with you that Kazakhstan is drawing an enormous amount of attention in the modern world, hence I believe we need to develop relations with all the interested countries. Some people do recommend abandoning multidimensional nature of our policy. But it is not right, as it would mean an artificial belittling of Kazakhstan's potential and its role in the world. On the other hand, we cannot deal with global problems which fall under the competence of the world's leading powers. It is very important to find one's own place in the foreign policy area.
One can surely say that Kazakhstan has settled on its priorities conceptually. Ten years ago there were "virgin lands" here, we had not a single interstate treaty, nor did we have a practice of international communications. Right now it is important to move forward, working both with certain states and the international organizations, to strengthen Kazakhstan's international positions.
Throughout this year the Central Asian region has turned from a zone of relatively abstract geopolitical interests into a zone of quite real military and political interests, almost into a zone of "pre-war actions". Kyrgyzstan has gotten a U.S. military base on its territory, currently Russian troops are appearing there. In some way or another, Kazakhstan may find itself drawn into this process. How active and deep, do you think, can be our "immersion"?
Tokayev: That Kazakhstan plays an important role in Central Asia is an axiom. We have been drawing and we will continue to draw the attention of the leading powers. Our task is to get the most out of our geopolitical position for the long-term benefit of Kazakhstan. This is a difficult task, and accomplishing it requires a great deal of mastery and patience. As far as foreign military bases go, I believe they must not be established on our territory.
Having signed the Treaty on good-neighborliness, friendship and cooperation in Beijing, Nursultan Nazarbayev called it historic, and, as far as one can judge, both sides are completely satisfied with the results of the visit [in December 2002]. How would you assess the visit?
Tokayev: It is very crucial for Kazakhstan to have stable and predictable relations with this country. Therefore, the Treaty on friendship, cooperation and good-neighborliness is key for our nation.
When Nursultan Nazarbayev rounded up his visit to Russia last week, he said Vladimir Putin and he discussed some common positions before his trip to China. What did this mean?
Tokayev: He discussed with Vladimir Putin ways to strengthen the interaction within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. These days a lot of countries ask to be admitted to the organization, as it is gaining respect. These are such countries as Mongolia, India and Pakistan. But the contradictions between India and Pakistan are quite acute, and this is why during the talks in Beijing a common view was expressed that admittance of new members to the SCO should be approached very cautiously. First, we need to build up the organizational basis, create an efficient secretariat, and then review applications of other nations concretely.
Don't you have a sense that the international relations, for various reasons such as tragic events, objective or subjective factors, and quote-unquote challenges of the times, are becoming more aggressive and acquiring elements of total nervousness and uncertainty?
Tokayev: The world has indeed changed radically under the influence of the threats to global security. The current century has begun under the badge of the fight against the international terrorism. This phenomenon requires serious studies. It is a fair statement that the terrorism finds fertile ground in poverty, which is used by extremists in their own interests. But the truth is that behind the backs of international terrorists there are very influential political figures who manage to keep in the shadows. In a not too distant future, the world, I believe, will be confronted with a more dangerous phenomenon, that of a mass exodus of people from unfortunate countries to the rich ones. Such a trend has already taken shape and led to the outbreak of xenophobia in Europe.
We need to strive to bridge the gap between the poor and the rich step by step, so that the civilization's achievements were accessible to the entire population of the Earth. Otherwise, the global clash and the conflict between civilizations are unavoidable.
Today a lot is said about the need for a dialogue among religions as a panacea of some sort against further divisions in the world along the religious lines. Nursultan Nazarbayev has already proposed a number of practical steps on the way to such a dialogue. What does the foreign ministry do to put the president's initiatives into practice?
Tokayev: The Foreign Ministry is actively working on organizing a meeting of representatives of various confessions. I consider this idea very prospective because it corresponds to demands of our most complicated times. The dialogue between civilizations is necessary, and Kazakhstan is an ideal place for such a dialogue.
[On February 13, 2003 Kazakhstan will host the International Conference on Peace and Harmony. Heads of state of Central Asian countries, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and Turkey, - all predominantly Muslim-populated nations, - along with the leaders of the international Jewish organizations from the USA and Israel are expected to attend.]
Kassymzhomart Tokayev, a career diplomat, has been the Secretary of State Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan since January 2002. Prior to that, he served as the country's Prime Minister for two and a half years, overseeing the continued economic reforms and the rapid economic growth. He served as the Foreign Minister from 1994 to 1999. He is the author of several books on foreign policy, most recently, of "Foreign Policy of Kazakhstan in the Process of Globalization" (2000).