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Jatinder Singh Bedi asked: How important is Kazakhstan for India? What has been India's role in Kazakhstan so far?

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  • Meena Singh Roy replies: There are three factors which make Kazakhstan important for India. First, its geo-strategic location; second, its economic potential, especially in terms of energy resources; and third, its multi-ethnic and secular structure. Kazakhstan’s geo-political existence between Russia and Asia, along with long borders with China, makes it a country of great strategic importance. Kazakhstan lies to the northeast of the Caspian Sea, bordered by the Russian Federation to the north, China to the east, and Kyrghyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to the south.

    India lays great emphasis on its relations with Kazakhstan, which is the second largest republic of the former Soviet Union. There is a high level of activity in the political cooperation between the two countries. Relations between India and Kazakhstan have been marked by significant cooperation in different areas ranging from culture, science and technology to co-operation in medium and small-scale industries, upgrading and modernisation of existing infrastructural facilities, and cooperation in the energy and defence sector.

    Among all the Central Asian countries, Kazakhstan remains the major trading partner of India (trade between two countries during 2010-11 amounted to US $306.2 million). The trade between the two countries has gone up over the years and prospects for cooperation in spheres of oil and gas, civil nuclear energy, uranium, agriculture, public health, information technology and defence are promising. India and Kazakhstan actively cooperate under the aegis of various multilateral fora including CICA, SCO and the UN organisations. India has been a consistent supporter of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) and is actively participating in the process. CICA is the only Central Asian forum of which India is a full member.

    There have been high level visits between the two countries. During the visit of President Nursultan Nazarbayev in January 2009, a Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership was adopted which foresees comprehensive cooperation in all spheres. Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna visited Kazakhstan during May 11-13, 2010. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Astana on April 15-16, 2011. During the visit, several agreements were signed. Important among them were: (i) Agreement between ONGC Videsh Limited and Kazmunaigas on Satpayev Exploration Block, (ii) Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, and (iii) Joint Action Plan for furthering Strategic Partnership between India and Kazakhstan. Later, Foreign Minister Krishna visited Astana on June 14-15, 2011 to attend the 10th Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).