Kazakhstan, India to celebrate 25 years of diplomatic ties on Wednesday
New Delhi [India], Feb.21 (ANI): Kazakhstan and India will celebrate the completion of 25 years of bilateral diplomatic ties on Wednesday, and both are looking to enhance and broaden engagement in existing as well as new areas, said Kazakhstan's envoy to India, Bulat Sarsenbayev.
In an interview given to ANI ahead of the 25th anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between the two nations, Ambassador Sarsenbayev said, "We are now opening a new page in our relations, especially after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's official visit to Kazakhstan in July 2015. Both countries and their respective governments have a greater understanding of each other and we are moving fast, and I am hoping both sides move faster. It is important to understand the friendship between our President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Prime Minister Narendra Modi."
Describing India as one of the "fastest and largest developing economies in the world", Ambassador Sarsenbayev further said, "Kazakhstan considers India as one of its most important partners and we provide support to each other, both at the bilateral level and at the multilateral level. Now, of course, it is very important for both to develop economic ties, mutual investments further, and we are on the way."
Recalling the time 25 years ago, when India was one of the first countries to formally open diplomatic ties with Kazakhstan soon after it became independent from the erstwhile Soviet Union, the envoy told ANI that his country's president made it a point to make India his first official state visit other than the CIS countries.
"India was the first country outside the CIS region to be visited by our president after Kazakhstan gained independence. Our President Nazarbayev has undertaken four visits to India i.e. in 1992, 1996, 2002 and 2009. Our president was the chief guest at India's republic Day celebrations in January 2009," he said.
India's Prime Ministers, on the other hand, have visited Kazakhstan on four occasions between 1992 and 2015 — P. V. Narasimha Rao in 1993, Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2002, Manmohan Singh in 2011 and Narendra Modi in 2015.
Citing the achievements of the diplomatic engagement between the two countries, Ambassador Sarsenbayev, "Both governments have regular meetings at all levels, which, indicates the dynamic development of bilateral cooperation."
"The year 2015 was the particularly successful period in bilateral relations. On July 7, 2015, Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, accompanied by a group of businessmen and industrialists visited Kazakhstan on an official visit, which gave the Kazakh-Indian relations corresponding dynamism. During the visit, the business forum with the participation of leading businessmen of both countries was held in Astana. The outcomes of the forum were establishment of the Joint Business Council and signing of the joint 'Road Map', "he said.
"At present, Kazakhstan and India share common views on global and regional processes, collaborate in important spheres of multilateral diplomacy. We have consistently supported Delhi's policy in its aspiration to obtain a permanent seat in UN Security Council, as well as in the issue of obtaining full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). India has supported the candidacy of Kazakhstan for a non-permanent UN Security Council member for 2017-2018 years and confirmed the country's participation in EXPO 2017 which is going to be held in Astana from June to September 2017 (We have already issued visas to Indian engineers to go there and build the Indian pavilion). Also, India actively participates in the activities of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions and the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA). All these have become an important factor in the deepening of inter-state dialogue," he added.
Commenting on the economic ties between the two countries, Ambassador Sarsenbayev said, "The volume of trade turnover between Kazakhstan and India is the second largest among the post-Soviet states and exceeds the volume of all Central Asian states taken together. And for ease of doing business, we have signed an amendments agreement on avoiding double taxation."
Bilateral trade statistics:
.2014 – 1.3 billion USD (export from Kazakhstan 1.8 billion USD, import 260.6 million USD)
.2015 – 461 million USD (export 220 million USD, import 241 million USD)
.2016 January-November 618.4 million USD (export 414.6 million USD, 203.8 million USD).
He said that for the period from 2005 to 2017, the gross inflow of direct international investments from India to Kazakhstan amounted to 245 million US dollars. The gross outflow of direct investments from Kazakhstan to India for the same period amounted to 83 million US dollars.
According to the statistics, he said, there are more than 400 registered companies with Indian participation in Kazakhstan and more than 100 of them are doing active business. Indian investments are in areas such as oil and gas, banking, engineering, restaurants, pharmaceutical trading, mining, steel, travel agency, tourism, trading and services.
He named companies like Arcelor Mittal Temirtau, the SUN Group, Punjab National Bank and ONGC Videsh Limited as being among the major Indian-owned companies operating in Kazakhstan.
"Nowadays, leading Indian companies such as GMR, the Jaypee Group and Dastur KM are exploring opportunities of entering to Kazakhstan," he added.
"Both countries also signed a fresh contract for supply of 5, 000 tones of natural uranium to India during the visit of Prime Minister of India to Kazakhstan in July 2015. KazStroyService (KSS), one of the largest EPC Companies in Kazakhstan, has worked over the last six years to construct a refinery project in Paradip, Orissa. KSS extended fullest cooperation for execution of this project which was inaugurated by Honorable Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi on February 7, 2016. During 2014-2015, one of the leading Kazakhstan geophysical companies JSC Azimut Energy Services completed seismic 3D projects survey in the state of Rajasthan," he said.
On bilateral cooperation in the tourism sector, he said that Kazakhstan's national carrier Air Astana operates daily flights between Delhi and Almaty with onward connections. At the moment company is studying the opportunity of opening direct flights between Delhi and Astana, he added.
He said plans are afoot to set up an Air Astana regional office in New Delhi, adding that the number of visitors to Kazakhstan has doubled from 6000 visas in 2014 to 11000 plus visas in 2016. He further revealed that the number of Kazakh visitors to India has gone up from 7000 in 2014 to over 18000 in 2016.
He said that an India-Eurasian FTA is work in progress and he was hopeful about India being admitted as a full member of the SCO when the Heads of State meet in Astana on June 8 and 9 this year.
In conclusion, he said, "The experience of 25 years of diplomatic relations shows that we have chosen the correct direction of development of our cooperation. Its potential is very large and is creative. We will continue to strive to use all our possibilities as much as possible. I am confident that this auspicious year will give even greater impetus to the further deepening and development of relations between Kazakhstan and India and our strategic partnership will rise to an even higher level, filled with new meaning and content for the sake of the friendship and prosperity of the peoples of the two countries." By Ashok Dixit