India-Kazakhstan Relations | UPSC Notes

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Kazakhstan is the world’s biggest landlocked country. It is part of the former Soviet Union and has borders with Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Buddhism came from India to Central Asia and Sufi ideas came from Central Asia to India, showing that the two countries have been connected for over 2,500 years. India now sees Central Asian countries as part of its “extended and strategic neighbourhood.”

Areas of Cooperation

Political

• India was one of the first countries to acknowledge that Kazakhstan was a free country. In February 1992, diplomatic ties were formed.

• After Kazakhstan became independent, President Nazarbayev’s first trip outside of the Commonwealth Independent States (CIS) was to India.

• The first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawahar Lai Nehru, Dr. Radhakrishnan in 1956 as Vice President, Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2002, and Dr. Manmohan Singh in 2011 were all part of high-level groups that went to Kazakhstan. In 1996 and 2008, the Vice Presidents of India, Shri K.R. Narayanan and Shri Hamid Ansari, went to Kazakhstan. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi went to Kazakhstan in July 2015.

The Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC), which was set up in 1993, has been the main way for India and Kazakhstan to work together on trade, economic, scientific, technological, industrial, and cultural issues. India and Kazakhstan also work together through CICA, SCO, and UN organisations.

Economic:

• In Central Asia, Kazakhstan is India’s biggest trade and business partner. It is also the richest country in the area, which makes it a great place to do business.

• The main things that are shipped to Kazakhstan are pharmaceuticals and medical goods, tea, machinery and equipment, and raw tobacco. Oil, uranium, asbestos, and titanium are the main things that India buys from other countries. Kazakhstan is a big market for Indian tea. In July 2015, when the Prime Minister of India went to Kazakhstan, the two countries signed a new deal for the sale of natural uranium. Kazakhstan makes more uranium than any other country.

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• In the oil and gas industry, ONGC Videsh Ltd. of India and KazMunayGas, the state oil company of the Republic of Kazakhstan, have signed a deal to buy a 25% stake in the Satpayev oil block in the Caspian Sea.

• The two countries did a total of USD 1.2 billion worth of business with each other.

Treaty and Agreements

• India and Kazakhstan have a deal that lets people with diplomatic or official passports enter without a visa.

• During President Nazarbayev’s stay in January 2009, an extradition treaty was signed.

• In 2015, India and Kazakhstan signed five important agreements, including a defence pact to improve military relations and a uranium supply contract.

• In 2009, India and Kazakhstan signed a treaty called “Strategic Partnership.” In 2015, they signed a treaty called “Defence and Military Technical Cooperation.”

• Ashgabat Agreement: India has joined the Ashgabat Agreement, which creates an international transport and transit corridor for moving goods between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.

Military

India and Kazakhstan held a joint military exercise called “Prabal Dostyk-17” to improve their ability to work together during “Counter Terrorism and Counter Insurgency Operations” in rural and semi-urban areas under the watch of the United Nations. According to the Ministry of Defence, the two ministers met in New Delhi on April 9, 2021, and the main topic of discussion was “bilateral defence cooperation.”

Both sides decided to look into the possibility of working together in the defence industry.

Indian companies have been in talks with Kazakhstan defence industries about co-production and co-development in the defence industry. In 2019, India and Kazakhstan held a military drill called KAZIND to practise counterinsurgency operations in mountainous areas.

Cooperation in space

• The two countries are talking about the idea of making KazSat-2R, a satellite for communication in space.

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• The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the National Space Agency of Kazakhstan are talking about making a satellite together and possibly launching it through the agency in the future. Kazakhstan is home to the famous Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Mutual Benefits

• Having India in Kazakhstan will give the country a different market, which will make it less worried about China’s power.

• Thanks to better ties between India and Kazakhstan, India can avoid Pakistan and the troubled country of Afghanistan to get to resource-rich Astana, which helps India’s economy grow.

• India could try to get more support from Kazakhstan and lessen support for China’s OBOR plan by building trust between the two countries and marketing itself as a more respectful alternative to China.

• The rising economic power of India in Kazakhstan can help India call out Pakistan for supporting terrorist groups. Also, both India and Kazakhstan share borders with countries that are prone to terrorism, so it would make sense for them to work together on these issues. Both countries are worried about religious extremism and terrorism, so this is another area where the two countries could work together. First, it will make Kazakhstan less dependent on Russian military equipment and support while giving India a foreign customer for its military-industrial complex. Second, it will stop Russia and China from putting more pressure on Kazakhstan.

• Kazakhstan is one of the biggest makers of uranium ore, and India has made its own nuclear reactors. Both countries can work together successfully to help each other in this area.

Challenges in Relations

• India doesn’t have as much power in Kazakhstan as China or Russia.

• Cross-border terrorism and unrest in the area around both countries because of states like Pakistan that help terrorist groups is a big problem that needs to be fixed right away.

• There is a big gap in knowledge between the two countries, which keeps them from using their relationship to its fullest.

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Future Prospects

• There are great chances to improve relations between the two countries in a number of areas. In addition to IT, pharmaceuticals, and textiles, there is a lot of room for growth in higher education, space, small and medium businesses, power production, food processing, and agriculture.

• Large Indian companies also need to put in bids for infrastructure and building projects in Kazakhstan. This includes building roads and railways, sending and distributing electricity, telephones, and making power.

• Working together on civil nuclear energy is a good way to broaden our economic and business ties with each other.

• In the field of space, Kazakhstan’s needs and wants and India’s knowledge and skills are similar to each other. The making and launching of satellites and the use of remote sensing technology to improve people’s lives through things like healthcare, geo-prospecting, etc., can be used to both countries’ benefit.

• Tourism is another area that has a lot of potential.

• A bilateral Cultural Agreement and Cultural Exchange Programme would go a long way towards making academic and strategic links stronger and more varied.

• The current political, military, and economic situation, both in India and around the world, gives India and Kazakhstan a lot of room to improve their relationship in both quality and quantity, taking it to a much higher level.