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Kazakhstan prepares to head European security grouping

world Updated: Jul 02, 2009 11:03 IST
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Astana, July 2 (IANS) Eighteen years ago, Kazakhstan became the last of the former Soviet republics to reluctantly part ways with Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now the strategically located Central Asian nation is preparing to head a key European-led security grouping as it asserts the right to fashion its own foreign policy initiatives.

Energy-rich Kazakhstan says it is "well prepared" for assuming the chair of the 56-member Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010 from Greece.

"We are well prepared as we prepare to take over from Greece. We have got a lot of time to get prepared," Adil Akhmetov, secretary of the Kazakhstan senate committee on security, defence and international affairs, told IANS in an interview here.

"Our main mission will be to promote security in all regions. From this perspective, Kazakhstan has been doing a lot in the past one year," he said, adding that a two-day seminar on security issues that concluded here on Tuesday was one manifestation of that.

"We are a good model to lead the OSCE because we are a multi-ethnic country and the OSCE is the largest (security-related grouping) after the UN," maintained Akhmetov, who has gone from politics to academics and back and who speaks fondly of independent India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and succeeding generations.

"I knew Jawaharlal Nehru. I knew his daughter Indira Gandhi, I knew her son (former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi) and now I know (Congress president and Rajiv Gandhi's widow) Sonia Gandhi," he stated.

To prepare him for his new role, Akhmetov was last June named the personal representative of the chairman-in-office of the OSCE on combating intolerance and discrimination against Muslims. Kazakhstan is a predominantly Muslim country.

In this context, he noted that the two-day conference of global faiths that opened here Wednesday would greatly aid his task. The third Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions was inaugurated here by Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

"This conference is not just a game. We practise tolerance," Akhmetov pointed out.

He also bristled at suggestions that Kazakhstan had been tardy at charting an independent foreign policy since emerging as an independent country in 1991.

"Let me tell you that we are the first in the world to have eliminated all our nuclear weapons. We are the first in the world to have done so. President Nazarbayev is also writing to the UN secretary general to declare Aug 29 as the day of abolition of nuclear weapons.

"We have also shut down a former Russian nuclear testing site in our country. There were 450 explosions at the site and they caused immense damage to the people and to the flora and fauna of the region," Akhmetov pointed.

Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome, however, remains the principal site of all of Russia's space launches. Interestingly, Russian remains Kazakhstan's official language and is the language of choice spoken by the majority of its citizens.

By Vishnu Makhijani
Astana, July 2 (IANS) Eighteen years ago, Kazakhstan became the last of the former Soviet republics to reluctantly part ways with Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now the strategically located Central Asian nation is preparing to head a key European-led security grouping as it asserts the right to fashion its own foreign policy initiatives.

Energy-rich Kazakhstan says it is "well prepared" for assuming the chair of the 56-member Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010 from Greece.

"We are well prepared as we prepare to take over from Greece. We have got a lot of time to get prepared," Adil Akhmetov, secretary of the Kazakhstan senate committee on security, defence and international affairs, told IANS in an interview here.

"Our main mission will be to promote security in all regions. From this perspective, Kazakhstan has been doing a lot in the past one year," he said, adding that a two-day seminar on security issues that concluded here on Tuesday was one manifestation of that.

"We are a good model to lead the OSCE because we are a multi-ethnic country and the OSCE is the largest (security-related grouping) after the UN," maintained Akhmetov, who has gone from politics to academics and back and who speaks fondly of independent India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and succeeding generations.

"I knew Jawaharlal Nehru. I knew his daughter Indira Gandhi, I knew her son (former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi) and now I know (Congress president and Rajiv Gandhi's widow) Sonia Gandhi," he stated.

To prepare him for his new role, Akhmetov was last June named the personal representative of the chairman-in-office of the OSCE on combating intolerance and discrimination against Muslims. Kazakhstan is a predominantly Muslim country.

In this context, he noted that the two-day conference of global faiths that opened here Wednesday would greatly aid his task. The third Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions was inaugurated here by Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

"This conference is not just a game. We practise tolerance," Akhmetov pointed out.

He also bristled at suggestions that Kazakhstan had been tardy at charting an independent foreign policy since emerging as an independent country in 1991.

"Let me tell you that we are the first in the world to have eliminated all our nuclear weapons. We are the first in the world to have done so. President Nazarbayev is also writing to the UN secretary general to declare Aug 29 as the day of abolition of nuclear weapons.

"We have also shut down a former Russian nuclear testing site in our country. There were 450 explosions at the site and they caused immense damage to the people and to the flora and fauna of the region," Akhmetov pointed.

Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome, however, remains the principal site of all of Russia's space launches. Interestingly, Russian remains Kazakhstan's official language and is the language of choice spoken by the majority of its citizens.