India, Kazakhstan must actualize strategic partnership potential: Experts

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New Delhi, Aug.8 (ANI): Panelists participating in a book launch on Kazakhstan on Friday said all ingredients for a wholesome strategic partnership between India and Kazakhstan exist, and the two governments would be remiss in their responsibility in not realizing the full potential of this partnership.

Speaking after the launch of the book "Contemporary Kazakhstan: The Way Ahead", former diplomat Rajiv Sikri said as both India and Kazakhstan possessed a high and welcome degree of scholarship and exchange, there was scope for broadening cooperation in areas other than civil nuclear, gas and oil. Sikri, who was India's envoy to Kazakhstan almost two decades ago, said cooperation in areas such as tourism, pharmaceuticals, information technology, trade and industry etc. could take bilateral ties to a higher plane.

"The fact that we have such a high degree of scholarship and exchange between the two countries is very welcome. This was not so when I was in Kazakhstan as ambassador. What one has noticed is that things always change whenever one visits Kazakhstan," he said.

For instance, the fact that there were now three Air Astana flights a week from New Delhi to Kazakhstan, as opposed to none in 1991-92, was a pointer to progress being made in Indo-Kazakh ties.

There was now a greater awareness about Kazakhstan in India and vice-versa about India in Kazakhstan, and credit for this, should go to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazabayev that country's embassy in Delhi and its envoy in India, Dr. Kairat Umarov, Sikri said.

He said cooperation in the tourism sector was one area which the two governments could actively consider.

"Kazakhstan is a tourism-friendly country. People-to-people contact needs to be encouraged. I am sure Kazakhstan and India both have a lot to offer in taking this relationship forward," he said.

Professor Phunchok Stopdan of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) said he did not see Kazakhstan as a Eurasian entity, but rather as the "new Asian Tiger" because of its "very great" potential. Recalling the difficulties that prevailed in Kazakhstan 15 to 18 years ago, as also the difficulty in understanding India from a Kazakh point of view, Professor Stopdan said: "We have come a long way".

Placing particular emphasis on the fact that India and Kazakhstan separately share borders with Asian giant China, Professor Stopdan cautioned that neither India nor Kazakhstan could afford to be "quick-fix nations" as was China.

"We cannot be China, a third neighbour of a Central Asia country. India maybe slow but is steady. Notwithstanding the fact that there is no common border (between India and Kazakhstan), there is a requirement for a strategic partnership. From a security and strategic point of view, both need to understand China very astutely.

The ingredients for a strategic partnership exist. New areas such as thermal power, pharmaceuticals and food security need to be explored and their potential actualized. Mechanisms for enhancing cooperation exist such as joint working groups and sub-committees," Professor Stopdan concluded.

Kazakhstan's Ambassador to India, Dr. Kairat Umarov, said the launch of a book on a Eurasian country should be seen as significant and timely, as it would serve the purpose of informing the general public and academia about various aspects of Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan, he said, is a growing powerhouse in Central Asia, a stable country, an industry and investment-friendly country, a country that was one of India's biggest trading partners.

Dr. Umarov dwelled extensively on Kazakhstan's achievements as an independent nation since 1991 (following the break-up of the erstwhile Soviet Union); including the lead role it has played in nuclear non-proliferation, promotion of multi-culturalism, multi-ethnicity and participation in multilateral forums such as the Shanghai Cooperation (SCO).

He said that since January 2009 (following the visit to India of President Nazarbayev), India and Kazakhstan have identified key areas for bilateral and strategic cooperation, and added that these fast growing contacts will facilitate a higher level of partnership. In this, the role of think tanks in promoting bilateral ties can never be underestimated, he said.

The book has been compiled and edited by Professor Anuradha M Chenoy of the Jawarharlal Nehru University and Dr. Arun Mohanty, Director of the Eurasian Foundation. By Ashok Dixit (ANI)

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