Almaty, Aug.27 : Interactions with several experts, including some from Kazakhstan, reveals a sense and a feeling of dismay among them about the traditional and non-traditional security challenges and threats facing the international community, and particularly the Asia region in the 21st century.
Incidents like 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the conflict between Russia and Georgia, the resurgence of the Taliban in certain pockets of Afghanistan, the United States and Poland's decision to go ahead with plans to set up a defence shield in East Europe and geopolitical concerns in South Asia, has left a majority of them non-plussed, they say.
One such expert was Sanat K. Kushkumbayev, the First Deputy Director of the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies, who told ANI during an interview that Kazakhstan's response to incidents like 9/11 and terror strikes is to wholeheartedly prevent them.
"Terrorism, in whatever form, is not accepted by Kazakhstan. We condemn it in the strongest possible terms. There is no justification for it. We have supported all anti-terrorism initiatives, be it by the United States, or any other country. Kazakhstan's support for such initiatives can be assessed by the fact that this country Krygistan allowed the U.S. to use its airspace to reach Afghanistan to tackle the Taliban and Al Qaeda immediately after 9/11. Kazakhstan also has an arrangement with the NATO to provide humanitarian aid. This is a very important part of our ties with the U.S. There are other areas also where we collaborate such as border management, immigration processes and combating drug trafficking," Kushkumbayev said.
When asked what his view was on Washington and East Europe's determination to set up a defence shield in spite of strong opposition from the Russian Federation and a threat to launch nuclear strikes on Poland, Kushkumbayev said this too is unacceptable from the Kazakh point of view, as the feeling is and has always been to promote neutrality, reasoning and consensus.
'We are very concerned with U.S. and NATO policies. We don't understand the aggression against Iran, against North Korea, actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. But at the same time, we are of the view that the Americans must not withdraw their forces from Iraq, as we anticipate that the situation could take a turn for the worse. The American policy in Asia has to be more clear, clean and transparent. Washington needs to be more flexible in its approach. The objective for all should be to create a balance of interests, not a balance of forces'," said Kushkumbayev.
Asked about US responses to the emergence of regional institutions in Asia like the Shanghai Cooperation (SCO) and the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), he said Washington is seeing these as blocs threatening its super power status, a view that is incorrect. Each of these institutions had a distinct character and purpose, and member states were keen to promote initiatives against terrorism and separatism and replace them with development-related goals.
As far as the SCO is concerned, Kushkumbayev said it has twin objectives - development of the Asian economy and ensuring security of the region from external threats. As far as Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Tajikistan and Azerbaijan are concerned, they seek and are eager for partnerships that serve the cause of peace and stability, he further said.
"We would like to diversify our contacts in the field of security. We have a small military unit whose responsibility is to help Kazakhstan's partners in their time of need. We are proud of this partnership," Kushkumbayev said.
On whether he foresaw this model being adopted in other parts of Asia, he said: 'Of course, there is some difference. Take Turkmenistan for instance, it maintains absolute neutrality. Krygistan and Tajikistan are more close to Kazakhstan, more oriented towards promoting balance. Uzbekistan would be welcomed into our fold, if it stops wavering in its political leanings. We can think of moving closer to China and Russia, but as a whole entity.
In summing up the Kazakh view, Kushkumbayev said his country and government believed in bringing nations together. Domestically, Kazakhstan possessed multi-cultural and multi-national features. It espoused a combination of ethnic stability, tolerance, religious freedoms and economic prosperity. Such was not the case in the Soviet Era, he said, adding that at that time, curbs were placed on types of worship, too much attention was paid to a particular kind of nationalism, ethnic differences prevailed and this meant "different systems of confessions", there was a promotion of a synthetic culture, an artificial nationality.
In the post-Soviet period, the pace of change was rapid. Citizens of the Central Asian republics felt a pride in being citizens of their respective countries, identity on the basis of ethnicity was discouraged, religion became a private affair rather than a state affair and civic loyalty was given preference. Kushkumbayev concludes that this strategy allowed Kazakhs to "avoid the religious cataclysms taking place in other parts of the world". By Ashok Dixit