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09/05/07

Kazakhstan becomes a center and crossroads of power and wealth


By Thomas Pochari, World Affairs Monthly, August 2007

Category: Politics
Posted by: admin
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Ten years ago, when I was travelling with my wife across Asia – from Istanbul to Beijing via the ancient Silk Route – I had clear visions of the interior of the continent becoming important and powerful. Before leaving on this travel I consulted most of the leading authorities on “Central Asia” and I should say that I was sceptical that their commentary was going to be of use to me. But I always keep an open mind, and so I considered the conventional thinking on what lay between West and East – the inner interior of the vast landmass we call Asia.

 

Several months ago, in June, I called up Tajikistan’s ambassador in Washington, and this was a very pleasant and indeed interesting discussion. I strongly recommend the interview. The Tajik ambassador made some predictions about Central Asia, and I had the feeling he was right. I accepted his predictions, and it is now clear that he was right – very correct. This was a very newsworthy interview, to be sure. And it is amazing – though not surprising – that no major media outlet picked it up and gave it coverage. But, as I have been arguing in WAM for many months, there are important changes under way in Central Asia.

 

I recently called up the ambassador of Kazakhstan in Washington to see if he might talk to me. He quickly agreed, and I must say that I am very pleased: we have here another very newsworthy interview. Yerlan Idrissov, who has just taken up his post there in Washington, offered an excellent survey of Kazakhstan, and what is particularly pleasant is that he has an engaging and infectious sense of humor – not always very common in diplomats. I enjoyed very much talking to him, and I am sure that we will talk often.  Click here to listen to the editor of World Affairs Monthly interview Yerlan Idrisov. The Embassy of Kazakhstan in Washington can be found on the net at www.kazakhembus.com.

 

I have published a few photos that we took while in Kazakhstan in the mid-1990s. You will see Alma Ata, otherwise called Almaty, then the seat of government and the most important city. My wife and I had been at the time acquainted with a few young Chinese diplomats, and so we ended up hanging out with Chinese (and sometimes lodging with them as well) as we got closer to the Chinese border. Alma Ata is not far from the Chinese border.

 

Central Asia is of course the crossroads between East and West. This is obvious, but what is strange is that it is not really perceived to be this. We never hear about Central Asia, and we rarely hear about Kazakhstan. I made the point to Idrisov that a key to Kazakhstan’s development, both political and economic, would be its infrastructure. He quickly agreed, and then described their ambitious plans to build such an infrastructure. Mobility is a big problem in most of Central Asia. The mountains and climate discourage travel. But I do think that Kazakhstan will overcome these physical challenges, and then move on to more ambitious projects.

 

I think World Affairs Monthly will open an office in Almaty as well as Dushanbe, and I do hope that Kazakhstan will consider investing in my businesses. The future is being built at this moment, and the future is in the very interior of Asia, in Central Asia. Rapid development will surely take place, stunningly rapid development. My guess is that the Chinese as well as the Russians will be making considerable investments in Kazakhstan and Central Asia. Pakistan is also recognizing that it cannot be left behind, and large infrastructure projects are being planned. Thanks so much Yerlan for the interesting discussion, and best of luck to you in your new diplomatic post there in Washington.

 

For full text and pictures please visit www.worldaffairsmonthly.com