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KAZAKSTAN


 

 

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 29,749 24,205 22,400 60
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,780 1,510 1,350 119
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 364 - (28/04/11)

The fall-out from the Middle East
The extraordinary events in the Middle East of late are having their repercussions in Central Asia.

Kazakhstan’s long-serving leader Nursultan Nazarbayev has been feeling the chill wind of change coming his way. He decided to pre-empt it, if he could, with a snap presidential election.

He shows his marked superiority to fellow Uzbek dictator, Islam Karimov, next door, who reacts by just battening down the hatches.

Nazarbayev is re-elected on a landslide
The election duly took place place on April 12. Nazarbayev, to no-one’s surprise, was re-elected to office with an extraordinary 95 per cent of the vote following .

President Nazarbayev, who has ruled Kazakhstan since before the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, was quick to hail the election as “open and fair”. Commenting on his victory, the 70-year-old Kazakh leader said: “The Kazakhs approve of the work I have conducted each day during these 20 years.” They were hardly given a chance to do otherwise; none of the opposition parties were given the time to organise a challenge or even stand.

While election monitors from the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose association of former Soviet republics which includes Russia, recognised the election as “open and democratic”, officials from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) in Europe said it had been marred by “serious irregularities” and instances of “ballot box stuffing”.

A magnet for outsiders
Since becoming an independent country 20 years ago, Kazakhstan has attracted the attention of foreign powers due to its enormous mineral and hydrocarbon wealth. The Central Asian state has the potential to be one of the richest countries in the world.

Russia remains the dominant outside power in Kazakhstan, viewing the region as its backyard. Gazprom, Russia’s state-run gas company, is developing the country’s gas fields while Russia’s space launch pad is located at Baikonur, in the Kazakh steppe, which is celebrating 50 years since Yuri Gagarin orbited space from the complex.

However, Russian dominance is being challenged by the United States and China, both of whom regard the region as of immense geopolitical importance.

As a portent of this enter Chinese PM
Prime Minister Manmohan came to Astana from Sanya in China for a bilateral summit with President Nazarbayev in mid-April. They discussed ways of placing the strategic relationship between the two countries on a firmer footing and qualitatively expand the scope of their cooperation.

Dr Singh was received at the Astana airport by the Minister of Oil & Gas of Kazakhstan, Mr. Sauat Mukhametbaevich Mynbayev. This was Dr Singh's first visit to Kazakhstan and his second to Central Asia after a trip to Uzbekistan in 2006.

Mr Nazarbayev had visited India as the Chief Guest of the Republic Day celebrations in 2009 - his fourth visit to this country. The two leaders have also been meeting regularly on the sidelines of multilateral events.

Dr Singh was accorded an official welcome at the Presidential Palace in Astana on April 16 after which the two leaders had a restricted meeting, followed by delegation-level interaction.

Mr Singh said Kazakhstan is a key regional country in Asia with a global role and has been playing an important part in promoting regional peace and stability. Kazakhstan was the first Chairman from Central Asia in 2010 of the OSCE. It is the current Chair of the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) and has been a major driver of the CICA (Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia). CICA is an important Central Asia-led forum in which India is a full member. Then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had attended the CICA Summit in 2002 in Almaty.

Mr Singh said India had historical links with Central Asia, a part of its extended neighbourhood in the north, and that Kazakhstan is a key partner in this region. In 2009, the two countries elevated their relationship to a strategic partnership.

‘Has to Move On’
While Nazarbayev deliberately hasn’t chosen any successor to avoid weakening his authority, the time will come when the president is going to have to step aside at some point in the next few years because of either ill health or old age, said GPW’s Mallinson.

“Investors are having to weigh up the reputational and financial advantages of doing business in Kazakhstan because the current regime eventually has to move on,” she said. “Until the day he is actually prepared to leave the stage, no one is going to know exactly who is actually going to succeed.”
 

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