Since arriving in New Delhi, India as Ambassador of Kazakhstan to India, H.E. Bulat Sarsenbayev holds the key responsibility of developing bilateral relationships with not just India but other South Asian countries including Nepal. B360 had the opportunity to interview H.E. Sarsenbayev during his brief visit to Nepal and talk about himself and the opportunities between Kazakhstan and Nepal. Excerpts:
Can you share with us about your career as a diplomat?
I started as a diplomat at the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan to Israel from 1997-2001. From 2001 to 2003, I worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan as Deputy Director of the International and Legal Department. Then I was posted as the Consul General in Hong Kong till 2005. In 2005, I was handed the responsibility of Charge de’ Affairs to the Hellenic Republic (Greece). From 2007 to 2014, I became the Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordon and the Lebanese Republic with concurrent accreditation to the Republic of Iraq and the State of Palestine. In November of 2014, I came to New Delhi, India as the Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Republic of India.
“Within the framework of the Financial Centre, we are going to establish international arbitration. The work of Astana International Financial Centre is based on international laws and English language. The AIFC functions within a special legal regime based on common law that regulates the legal relationships between AIFC participants and third parties and aims at the development of the financial market”.
What is the reason behind your visit to Nepal?
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan has entrusted me to develop bilateral relationship with four other countries in South Asia region including Nepal. When I arrived then in Delhi, I realised that there were no diplomatic relationships established between Kazakhstan and Nepal.
Kazakhstan is comparatively a new country. On 16 December, we will be celebrating 27 years of independence. We used to be part of the Soviet Union and in December 1991, Kazakhstan declared its independence.
The main reason of my visit is to start some interactions between Nepal and Kazakhstan. I came to meet Hariprabha Khagdi, Deputy Mayor of Kathmandu, Chiri Babu Maharjan, Mayor of Lalitpur, and the Minister of Finance, Dr. Yuba Raj Khatiwada to invite them to attend some events in Kazakhstan. On 6 July, the Republic of Kazakhstan celebrates its 20th Anniversary of Astanaas, the capital city. There are also some other events for celebration; one of which is the opening of the Astana International Financial Centre. It’s a big project and the soft opening of the Centre happened in January, 2018 whereas the official opening takes place on July 5 accredited by the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev.
The second reason is to invite the Mayor of Kathmandu for the Global Silk Road Forum (July 2-3) organised by the Mayor of Astana, Asset Issekeshev. He has invited mayors of capitals of various countries to the event including the mayor of Kathmandu.
Although these are the two purposes of my visit, the main target is to establish closer relations between our two countries.
Can you tell us more about the Astana International Financial Centre?
The Astana International Financial Centre is a big project not only for Kazakhstan but also for other countries including Nepal and India. It is a financial hub for Central Asia, the Caucasus, Eurasian Economic Union, the Middle-East, West China, Mongolia and Europe supported by modern infrastructure and the latest technology.
Within the framework of the Financial Centre, we are going to establish international arbitration. The work of Astana International Financial Centre is based on international laws and English language. The AIFC functions within a special legal regime based on common law that regulates the legal relationships between AIFC participants and third parties and aims at the development of the financial market. It is similar to other international arbitration organisations like Arbitrating Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, the London Court of International Arbitration, etc. with international judges. It will be another opportunity for investors to come if any disputes need to be settled in arbitration. The Astana International Arbitration Centre is much closer and will be less expensive to travel for Nepal and other Asian countries than to London or Stockholm.
Besides, there will be a stock exchange, Astana International Exchange. Already some international companies have expressed their interest. Some shares have been bought by NASDAQ, Shanghai Stock Exchange, etc. There are not much international stock exchanges in Central Asia region and it will be a big stock exchange of the region. A high-tech exchange platform based on best international practices will be created within the AIFC in cooperation with a strategic partner from among the leading stock exchanges.
In your past visits to Nepal, you have had discussions about important issues of bilateral cooperation, such as establishing diplomatic relations, exploring tourism opportunities through people-to-people contacts, promoting student exchange programmes, military cooperation, etc. Can you share about the development of these bilateral cooperation issues between Kazakhstan and Nepal?
Tourism is one of the areas where cooperation between Kazakhstan and Nepal has excelled in. Tourism is one of the major attractions of Nepal. Many Kazakh tourists like to travel and have visited Nepal. Kazakhstan is one of the quickest developing countries in the world which is why Kazakh people can afford to travel. The GDP per capita of Kazakhstan is around $8,000. Earlier this year in May, one of our sportsmen, Captain Maksut Zhumayev came with a large team and ascended Mt. Everest. There have been other Kazakhs sportsmen who have climbed Mt. Everest. In Kazakhstan, there are also high mountains which is why we have these sportspersons, who we call ‘snow leopards’. Not just for tourists, Nepal is a good country for adventure sportsperson also.
As for Nepali tourists travelling to Kazakhstan, I don’t have the exact number but there hasn’t been much though we have flight everyday from Delhi to Almaty and four flights a week to Astana.
When I came to New Delhi in 2014, we issued 6,000 visas for Indians whereas last year, 2017, we issued almost 20,000 visas. Kazakh people visiting South Asian countries have also increased. So, this shows possibilities even for Nepali tourists. About 3,500 Indian students have been in Kazakhstan. Areas like tourism and education is easy to develop. Links between the universities and tourism companies in both countries, Kazakhstan and Nepal has to be made.
I think Nepal should be more active in promoting Nepal in Kazakhstan. The Nepali companies should come to participate in different international expos and fairs in Kazakhstan and vice versa. These can be easily initiated between the two countries.
We have very good military cooperation. We know that Nepal is very professional in peace keeping forces. Few years ago, we had sent a team to Nepal for training. A representative of Nepal Army has also visited Kazakhstan to observe some military drills. There are already some interactions happening.
Now, Kazakhstan is a non-permanent member of the security council of the UN. I know that Nepal supported us and voted in our favour which is why we are very grateful to Nepal. For us it is important because though Kazakhstan is not a big country, we are very active internationally.
There have been some links. Nepal and Kazakhstan have good political relations and there are many opportunities.The thing is both countries’ representatives need to start visiting and meeting each other to plan and to work on co-developing both the countries.
What kind of cooperation can be made between Kazakhstan and Nepal that will be beneficial for both countries?
First of all, we should establish a joint committee or intergovernmental committee so that both countries’ representatives could meet each other annually, once in Kazakhstan and another time in Nepal, to identify and discuss areas of cooperation and requirements to fulfil the targets. Second possibility is to establish special working group in both the governments in various areas like tourism, education, trade, transport, etc. This helps both the governments to understand the possibilities and develop both countries.
What are your expectations from Nepal?
We are important for each other because both Kazakhstan and Nepal are independent and landlocked countries. We need to find ways to work and interact on bilateral level. We can start from tourism identification which will help both countries to know about each other’s culture and that will eventually lead to some projects.
As the Ambassador of Kazakhstan to India and other South Asian countries, what targets have you set for yourself?
As the Ambassador, I want to fulfil my responsibility in developing good relations between Kazakhstan and India, Nepal and other South Asian countries. Compared to the previous years, last year our trade with India increased by more than $300 million and reached almost $1 billion. This is the largest trade to happen between India and other Central Asian countries. There are also some additional investment projects, both in Kazakhstan and India. So yes, as India and Nepal are linked together, there is a huge opportunity for both Kazakhstan and Nepal to do business. In previous times, Kazakh businesses have had good experience in Nepal so I don’t see the reason why not to.