Kazakhstan: A Promising Trade Alternative for Afghanistan
By: Amanullah Hanifi
Translated By: Sajad Ahmad Khetab
Considering Afghanistan's geographical location, it is a landlocked nation, devoid of a direct maritime route. Due to this lack of sea access, Afghanistan is actively focusing on neighboring countries for trade and transit, seeking to establish connections with regional and global nations. Economic and trade relations hold immense significance and vitality for Afghanistan, alongside its political, social, and security associations with neighboring nations. With its strategic position, Afghanistan has not only become a valuable trade and transit partner but also a lucrative market for all neighboring countries. Among them, Central Asian countries, particularly Kazakhstan, have attained self-sufficiency in agricultural and industrial products, necessitating consumer markets for their goods. Kazakhstan exports a range of commodities such as wheat, flour, oil, electrical equipment, agricultural machinery, and construction materials to the Afghan markets via transit routes through Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and to a lesser extent, Tajikistan. While Afghanistan proves to be a favorable consumer market for Kazakhstan, conversely, Kazakhstan serves as an excellent platform for promoting Afghanistan's dried and fresh fruits, saffron, and various Afghan products. Thus, it facilitates the delivery of Afghan products to the global market. Since the re-establishment of the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan, trade and transit between Afghanistan and Kazakhstan have significantly increased, providing an opportunity to strengthen relations and take effective steps in this regard. If both countries effectively capitalize on the available opportunities, they undoubtedly have the potential to play a constructive role in the economic growth and development of their respective nations. This article provides a concise overview of the historical background of the bilateral relations, trade and transit affairs, available opportunities, and the existing challenges between Afghanistan and Kazakhstan in this regard.
Historical Background of Afghanistan-Kazakhstan Relations
The political ties between Afghanistan and Kazakhstan were established on February 12, 1992. Kazakhstan initiated its diplomatic endeavors in Kabul in September 2002 and officially inaugurated its embassy in June 2003. Conversely, the Afghan Embassy commenced operations in Almaty, Kazakhstan in 1993, later relocating to Astana in 2005. Over the course of three decades, the relationship between Afghanistan and Kazakhstan has witnessed substantial growth in official political and economic interactions between Kabul and Astana. By establishing its embassy in Kabul, Kazakhstan has actively engaged in humanitarian aid initiatives, and various collaborative ventures, also encouraging and facilitating significant investments by Kazakhstani entrepreneurs in Afghanistan. Since the inception of formal relations, Kazakhstan has extended scholarships to Afghan students across diverse academic disciplines, enabling them to pursue higher education in esteemed universities. Moreover, Kazakhstan has not only maintained its status as a friendly nation to Afghanistan but has also lent support to Afghanistan on international platforms. Following the recent political developments in Afghanistan and the establishment of the Islamic Emirate, Kazakhstan has continued to provide humanitarian assistance to the common citizens and underprivileged communities in Afghanistan. Furthermore, multiple meetings have taken place between the officials of the Islamic Emirate and Kazakhstan, with the aim of fortifying and broadening political, security, and commercial relations between the two countries. As steadfast allies, Afghanistan and Kazakhstan remain committed to safeguarding each other's interests and promoting economic development, diligently working together to bolster these multifaceted relations.
Can Kazakhstan be a Prominent Trading Partner for Afghanistan?
Afghanistan and Kazakhstan have long been striving to establish a strong economic and trade partnership. In pursuit of this objective, officials from the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and Kazakhstan have engaged in numerous joint meetings. These gatherings have focused on crucial matters, available opportunities, and the resolution of existing challenges. Currently, the trade value between the two countries stands at approximately one billion dollars, with Kazakhstan's exports exceeding those of Afghanistan. However, by fostering and enhancing this business relationship, numerous lucrative opportunities can be created. Kazakhstan's favorable geographical location, abundant natural resources, and positive relations with Afghanistan position it as an excellent business alternative for Afghanistan, as underscored by the following opportunities:
Firstly, by reinforcing trade relations with Kazakhstan, Afghanistan can play a significant and impactful role in the country's reconstruction and economic growth. Kazakhstan boasts substantial oil and gas resources, making it an invaluable partner. Moreover, as one of the largest wheat-producing nations globally, Kazakhstan presents numerous prospects for collaborative endeavors. Commercial cooperation in this domain is mutually beneficial, as Afghanistan faces shortages in flour, wheat, oil, and gas, while Kazakhstan seeks nearby and prosperous markets, with Afghanistan being an ideal choice.
Secondly, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, with the establishment of a centralized system, aims to strengthen and expand its relations with the world's largest economic power, China. However, direct connectivity is lacking, necessitating a connection through Central Asian countries, particularly Kazakhstan. The railway trade route between Afghanistan and China traverses Kazakhstan's territory, making Kazakhstan vital to the facilitation of infrastructure and advancements in this area.
Thirdly, Afghan entrepreneurs are keen to access Russian markets via Kazakhstan, as Russia offers a favorable market for Afghanistan's dried and fresh fruits, precious stones, and Afghan clothing. By bolstering and expanding trade relations with Kazakhstan, Afghanistan would establish connections with two powerful regional economic forces—China and Russia—enabling Afghan businessmen to access international markets. Considering these factors, it is evident that Kazakhstan has the potential to become a robust commercial and economic partner for Afghanistan.
Fortunately, with the re-establishment of the Islamic Emirate, comprehensive coordination and tangible efforts have commenced between the two sides to realize this significant goal. In multiple meetings, Kazakh officials have expressed their satisfaction with the improved security situation in Afghanistan, the eradication of corruption, investments in various sectors, and the establishment of a central government. They are pleased with the prevailing circumstances and aim to enhance commercial relations with Afghanistan while simultaneously strengthening political and security ties, with a target to increase the export value to three billion dollars this year.
Opportunities for Business Between the Two Countries
Firstly, Kazakhstan stands as one of the Central Asian nations that has achieved rapid economic growth since gaining independence from the Soviet Union. Given that Afghanistan has recently been liberated from occupation after two decades, it can capitalize on Kazakhstan's experience to expedite its economic progress within a short span of time.
Secondly, ensuring security is the fundamental and essential prerequisite for attracting foreign investment. It is widely acknowledged that countries lacking stability in terms of security are unsuitable for investment, as investing in such regions entails significant risks. Afghanistan, which endured occupation by the United States of America for the past 20 years, did not foster a conducive environment for foreign investment. However, by the grace of Allah, Afghanistan has now freed itself from the oppressive grip of occupation. With the advent of the Islamic Emirate, conditions have been established to promote security and foreign investment in Afghanistan.
Thirdly, over the past two decades, Afghanistan was plagued by a corrupt regime under the control of the United States and NATO. Every official was entangled in financial and moral corruption. The incompetence and corruption of this administration resulted in Afghanistan consistently ranking at the top of the list of corrupt countries, impeding economic development. However, with the Islamic Emirate assuming power, corruption has been eradicated, and individuals committed to advancing the national interests and promoting economic growth have taken charge. These developments create significant opportunities for bilateral business cooperation between Afghanistan and Kazakhstan. Afghanistan can leverage Kazakhstan's economic achievements, benefit from enhanced security conditions, and collaborate with a government focused on national development. By embracing these opportunities, Afghanistan has the potential to revitalize its economy and forge a prosperous future.
Strengthening trade relations with Kazakhstan holds immense potential for Afghanistan's reconstruction and economic development, given Kazakhstan's abundant oil and gas resources. Moreover, as one of the world's leading wheat producers, Kazakhstan offers numerous avenues for fruitful collaboration between the two countries. Geographically situated in a strategic location, Kazakhstan can serve as a vital conduit, connecting Afghanistan to major economic players such as China, Russia, and the Red Sea via Central Asian nations. By fostering closer ties with Kazakhstan, Afghan entrepreneurs can utilize this connection to effectively deliver their goods to global markets, particularly Russia. In the competitive landscape of Central Asia, each country strives to identify a convenient and cost-effective consumer market for its products, and Afghanistan emerges as the most favorable choice for Kazakhstan.