Indo-Kazakh relations have always been warm and friendly and share common values like secularism, democracy and rejection of fundamentalism etc. Even when it was part of former USSR in 1955, Pandit Nehru along with Indira Gandhi visited Almaty and India was the first country outside Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to recognise Kazakhstan as an independent country. This was despite of the fact India was a close friend of Soviet Union during the cold war era. The independent countries which were formerly part of Soviet Union are called as CIS countries. Diplomatic relations were established in February 1992. India was the first country outside CIS region to be visited by President Nazarbayev after independence of Kazakhstan. This visit in 1992 was followed by the visit of then Prime Minister of India Shri Narsimha Rao in 1993 which gave impetus to India-Kazakhstan relations. In Jan 2009 he was the Chief Guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations.
Relationship Of India and Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan is a transnational country with presence both in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. It is the ninth largest country by area and the largest landlocked country of the world. Kazakhstan was the last Soviet Union country to declare its independence on December 16th 1991. Kazakhstan is full of resources as it possess vast fuel reserves (major petroleum and natural gas deposits) as well as large amounts of other minerals and metals (coal, iron-ore, manganese, chrome ore, nickel, cobalt, copper, molybdenum, lead, zinc, bauxite, gold and uranium). The proven reserves of Kazakhstan stand at 4 billion tonnes of oil & gas condensate and 3 trillion cubic meters of gas. Kazakhstan is a relatively large agricultural country, producing and exporting mainly livestock and grain. The industrial in the central Asian country includes extraction and processing of natural resources, construction of equipment, tractors and agricultural machinery. The main areas of investment are considered to be machine building for oil & gas industry, agricultural machinery, petro-chemical industry, construction material, food processing, IT and bio-tech parks.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Astana on 15-16 April 2011. During the visit, several Agreements were signed. Important among them were:
(i)Agreement between ONGC Videsh Limited and Kazmunaigas on Satpayev ExplorationBlock
(ii)Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, and
(iii)Joint Action Plan for furthering Strategic Partnership between India and
Later, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna also visited Astana on 14-15 June, 2011 to attend the 10th Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. India and Kazakhstan actively cooperated under the aegis of Multilateral Forum including Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the UN organizations. India has been a consistent supporter of CICA and is actively participating in the process. CICA is the only Central Asian forum of which India is a member. India was admitted as Observer in the SCO Summit held in July 2005 in Astana. Kazakhstan is supportive of India’s permanent membership to UNSC. Kazakhstan also cooperates with India in the field of counter terrorism and had condemned the Mumbai attacks in 2008.
China’s increased activity in the South Asian region also necessitated the need for India to explore its presence in Central Asia to achieve some diplomatic gains.
Kazakhstan’s gains from India can be found in the sectors like Pharmaceutical and Tea markets where India is a major player. Almost all the major Pharmaceutical companies have their operations in Kazakhstan and are gaining/increasing their market share every year. In iron and steel sector, Ispat Karmat is major NRI investment in Kazakhstan worth over US $ 800 million. It operates an integrated steel plant with six million tonne steel capacity per annum. It contributes approximately 8% to the Kazakh GDP. Kazakhstan sees Ispat Karmet plant as a model investment venture. In January 2004, Punj Lloyd Kazakhstan Ltd. signed a contract for the construction of large and small bore pipelines. The contract amount is approx. US $ 35 million and the project involves lying of pipelines. Other potential fields of cooperation considered are fertilizers production, petrochemical sector, thermal power plants, Entrepreneurship Development Centre etc. Agreements in the fields of Agriculture, Health, Culture, Science and Technology and Education etc are currently under consideration by both sides. Prospects for cooperation in spheres of Oil and Gas, Civil Nuclear Energy, Uranium, agriculture, public health, information technology, education, culture and defence are promising.
Trade between India and Kazakhstan do not match the existing vast potential in this field. Bilateral trade in 2010 was around USD 313.8 million, an increase of around 23.8 % over USD 253.4 million in 2009 as a result of Kazakhstan successful overcoming the economic recession. This amount of trade is nowhere near the potential that exists between the two countries. Major commodities of export from India to Kazakhstan are tea, pharmaceuticals, medical equipments, machinery, tobacco, valves and consumer items etc. Major items of import by India are asbestos, soft wheat, steel, aluminium, wool and raw hides.
Cooperation in Energy Sector
Kazakhstan has good potential for investment in the oil, setting up of refineries, pipeline construction and gas sectors, as also in certain spinoff areas like industrial housing, lying of roads and training. India is one of the largest consumers of oil and gas in the world and viewing its fast economic growth, need of oil & gas would increase substantially. Indian expertise in oil exploration and refining can play a positive and constructive role in the development of oil & gas sector of the Kazakhstan. Further the renewable energy sector where both the countries can gain from each other immensely.
Kazakhstan is a relatively large agricultural country, producing and exporting mainly livestock and grain. Commercial farming coupled with food processing industry could be another prospective area. A 17 member delegation led by the Minister of Agriculture, Govt. of Punjab visited Kazakhstan from October 10-13 to explore the possibilities of investment in agricultural sector.
Kazakhstan is keenly interested in establishment of a Software Technoloy Park and India as an IT Super Power with its expertise in frontier technology fields such as Information Technology, Bio-technology, Satellite imaging etc. can play a major role in the development of IT Sector of Kazakhstan. Apart from IT, Space sector is also a potential field which India and Kazakhstan must explore for the benefit of both the countries.
Indian Cultural Centre conducts classes in Yoga, Hindi and Kathak dances. India
trains specialists and scholars from Kazakhstan in various fields under ITEC program
sponsored by Ministry of External Affairs, and under the ICCR Scholarship
programmes for international students. Since 1992 more than 750 specialists have
undergone training under ITEC and more than 160 students have studied in India under ICCR programme.
India Kazakhstan nuclear deal
Kazakhstan has 15% of the world's uranium resources and became the leading uranium producing country in 2009 and since domestic resources in India are not sufficient for full capacity operation of nuclear reactors in India, such resources will allow country in achieving energy security. In April 2011, both the countries signed the agreement Kazakh capital Astana during an official visit to Kazakhstan by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In a joint statement on behalf of the two countries, the governments "noted the need for expansion of mutually beneficial cooperation in this area while adhering to their existing obligations under multilateral nuclear regimes." The nuclear cooperation agreement was one of many signed during the visit, covering areas as diverse as food security, energy sector cooperation and space research.
Apart from the above areas, India and Kazakhstan have an agreement on visa free entry for Diplomatic and Official Passport holders. The first Bilateral Consular Consultations between India and Kazakhstan was held in Astana on 5-6 November 2009. There are about 3500 NRIs in the whole of Kazakhstan including the students studying medicine in Kazakhstan. Most of the NRIs are in the private sector (oil exploration, downstream industries, steel and IT) and business (tea, pharmaceuticals etc).
There are few impediments also which block the road of cooperation between the two countries. For instance, there is no viable trade route between the two countries is the biggest bottleneck. As Kazakhstan is a landlocked country, there is no sea route between the two and the land routes pass through Pakistan and China with relations of India are not harmonious one. Further there is lack of interest of Indian businessmen as a result there is absence of Indian blue chip companies in Kazakhstan. It is because of the lack of general awareness about each other among the citizens of both countries. Such factors definitely needed to be sorted out if both countries have to further consolidate their cooperation. It is clear that both the countries can gain immensely from such cooperation and furtherance of such cooperation, both must work collectively to remove such impediments and together constructively reach the potential.
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