ALMATY, Jan 24
Indo-Kazakh contacts go back to the days of the Great Silk Route which passed from China to the Western world through the Central Asian region (then called Turkestan) touching Southern Kazakhstan especially Shymkent and Zambul regions. During the period between 12th and 3rd century B.C., there were nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes of the Sakas living in Southern Kazakhstan who later on invaded India. Through the Silk Route, Chinese silk was traded, while Indian goods moved to the Far East. The Silk Route was the highway for Buddhism from India to Kazakhstan. Buddhist relics have been discovered in the Sairam region of South Kazakhstan. Indo-Kazakh ties date back to these days and have continued since then, resulting in mutual penetration and enrichment of the two civilizations and cultures.
During the days of the Soviet Union, direct ties between India and Kazakhstan were not very extensive. All contacts with the various autonomous republics of the USSR were through Moscow only. Pandit Nehru alongwith Mrs. Indira Gandhi visited Almaty in 1955. Later Dr. Radhakrishnan visited Kazakhstan in his capacity as the Indian Ambassador to the USSR. He had met Satpaev, the then President of the National Academy of Sciences of Kazakhstan.
Post 1991 period
India was one of the first countries to recognise the independence of Kazakhstan. Diplomatic relations were established in May 1992 when the Embassy of India was opened in Almaty. Ambassador Kamalesh Sharma presented credentials as India�s first Ambassador to Kazakhstan on 1st October, 1992. The Embassy of Kazakhstan was opened in New Delhi in September 1993. Relations in different areas have strengthened since then, notably in the political, economic, trade, cultural, scientific and sports spheres.
India and Kazakhstan have a good political relationship. Bilateral political interaction has been regular. Interaction in UN and other international fora has been close and mutually supportive. These consultations have revealed a close level of understanding and shared perceptions on each other�s concerns in the region. The Kazakhstan Majlis, or lower house, has set up a 4-member Parliamentary Sub-group on India.
India has consistently supported President Nazarbaev�s initiative on convening a Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA). India is an active member of the Special Working Group (SWG) created for the drafting of the documents of CICA. There have also been two meetings of CICA at the Deputy Foreign Minister level which took place in February 1996 and December 1997 in Almaty. The Foreign Ministers of the CICA member States met in Almaty on 14th September and signed the Declaration on the Principles Guiding Relations among the CICA Member States. Indian External Affairs Minister participated in this meeting.
A number of high-level visits have taken place between India and Kazakhstan. From the Indian side, these include the visit of Vice-President (September �96) and Prime Minister (May 1993); Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation Shri Gulam Nabi Azad (September 1993); Minister of State for External Affairs Shri R.L.Bhatia (October 1992) and Shri Salman Khurshid (May 1993 and June 1994); Minister of State for Mines Shri Balram Singh Yadav (July 1995); and Prof. Y.K.Alagh, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power and S&T (September 1997). Prof. V.K. Ramamurthi, Minister of Petroleum visited Kazakhstan as leader of the Indian delegation for the 3rd Indo-Kazakh Joint Commission which was held in Almaty on 29th-30th March, 1999. External Affairs Minister Shri Jaswant Singh visited Kazakhstan from 12th to 14th September, 1999 in connection with the Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the member States of CICA which was held in Almaty 13th-14th September, 1999.
Several important visits have taken place from the Kazakh side also. President Nazarbaev has visited India thrice (February 1992, July 1993 and December 1996). A Kazakh parliamentary delegation to India was led by the then Speaker Abdildin in December 1993. The then Minister of Science and New Technologies Abilsitov visited India for the first session of the Joint Commssion in July 1993. The First Deputy Prime Minister Mette, accompanied by the Minister of Science and New Technologies, Mr. Shkolnik, visited India in May 1995 for the second session of the Joint Commission. Former Foreign Minister Saudabaev has also visited India (August �94). Dy. Prime Minister & Minister for Agriculture, Z. Karibzhanov visited India in March 1999 for the Investment Conference on Kazakhstan which was held in New Delhi on 11th-12th March. Dy. Prime Minister & Foreign Minister K. Tokaev visited India on 17th-18th August, 1999.
A large number of agreements have been signed during the above mentioned visits and activities.
TRADE AND ECONOMIC
Trade between the two countries is mainly confined to the traditional commodities which India used to supply to the former USSR. The main commodities being exported from India are tea, pharmaceuticals, woollen goods, leather goods, textiles, tobacco products, cosmetics, shaving creams, tooth pastes and other consumer products. Exports from Kazakhstan are restricted to wool, raw materials like hides & skins and small quantities of metals. The Punjab National Bank is planning to open a representative office in Almaty. The current bilateral trade between the two countries, through all channels, is estimated at $ 30 million with the balance heavily weighted in favour of India. Over 2500 tourists from Kazakhstan visited India for shopping last year, contributing to exports of estimated $ 5 - $ 10 million worth of goods from India. In 1998, exports from Kazakhstan stood at US$ 7.9 million, while the exports from India were of US$ 36.1 million.
To give impetus to bilateral trade, economic and scientific cooperation, an inter-governmental Joint Commission has been set up by the two Governments which had its three meetings, last Joint Commission was held in Almaty on March 29-30, 1999.
India-CIS Chamber of Commerce & Industry, New Delhi has been active in promoting bilateral trade and had organised two Indian fairs in 1993 and 1994. The Indian Trade Promotion Organisation organised Indian participation in the Consumer Expo �95 held in Almaty. ITPO organised an exclusive Indian trade fair in Almaty during October 1996. The focus of the trade fair was on small-scale and light industries. ITPO also organised participation of Indian companies in ASPAT�98 held in Almaty in October 1998. Tea Board of India has been participating since last two years in International Food Expo along with the main tea companies in Kazakhstan. Already, about 25 Indian companies have opened their offices in Kazakhstan and many more companies are contemplating to open offices in the coming years. The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry and the Associated Chamber of Commerce & Industry, New Delhi have signed an agreement with the Kazak Chamber of Commerce & Industry in December 1994 for setting up of a Joint Business Council. JBC is to carry out more systematic business promotion activities in trade, investment, technology transfer and direct contact between the enterprises of the two countries.
India has extended to Kazakhstan a line of credit of $ 10 million to be utilised for joint venture projects in the sectors of food processing, pharmaceuticals and other priority sectors and also for import of consultancy services and consumer durables. Under this, two projects in the sector of pharmaceuticals and packaging have started functioning.
While private sector investment in Kazakhstan from India is not very large, a NRI-owned company, Ispat International, has bought the 6.5 million tonne capacity Karaganda steel plant, a linked power plant and 15 coal mines. ONGC Videsh is also actively looking for opportunities for investment in the oil and gas sector in Kazakhstan. ONGC has been given exploration licence in Pavlodar region over an area of 10,000 sq. kms approximately.
Indian Technical Economic Cooperation (ITEC):
The Prime Minister during his May 1993 visit to Kazakhstan had offered to gift one medium-scale and one small scale demonstration project with ITEC funding. In response to the Kazakh side�s request, a project for setting up a heating unit for pensioners in Shezkazgan Region was approved and executed by M/s Thermax. This region has now been merged with Karaganda Oblast and the unit was commissioned in February 1998.
Every year we send sixty candidates from Kazakhstan to India under ITEC programme in various disciplines, such as, diplomacy, banking, finance, trade, management, small industry promotion, etc. So far 254 people have been trained in various institutes in India from Kazakhstan. An English language training programme has also been organised. Kazakhstan is appreciative of India�s assistance in the field of personnel training.
Kazakhstan is a landlocked country having no access to the sea. The absence of a viable trade routing has, therefore, been a great obstacle in the growth of bilateral trade between the two countries. Efforts are being made by India to promote bilateral trade also through the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, which will get a further impetus as the missing rail link between Serakhs in Turkmenistan and Meshad in Iran is now formally open and is expected to become operational very soon. Trade also takes place through Russian and Ukrainian ports.
India has signed an air services agreement with Kazakhstan. At present Air Kazakhstan operates a weekly flight between Delhi and Almaty.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Cooperation in S&T has developed rapidly following the visits to Kazakhstan of the Secretary, Department of Science & Technology in November 1995 and of the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission in January 1996. Some concrete programmes of collaboration between Indian and Kazak scientific institutions have already been worked out. Prospects in this regard are promising. The second session of the Indo-Kazakh S&T Committee was held in Almaty in October 1998 and a Protocol was signed on 17th October, 1998. Third session of the Sub-Committee is likely to be held in March 2000.
(Cubmitted by the Indian Embassy to Kazakhstan)
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