Kazakhstan and Central Asia: Regional perspectives
Central Asian Survey
167 - 183
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Today, Kazakhstan-as any of the Central Asian ex-Soviet states-is busy solving its domestic and economic problems. This facet of their interests and policy makes the present-day intra-Central Asian relations considerably different from the early years of independence, when despite their economic and political controversies their co-ordinated policy and attitude was the key to their survival vis-à-vis Russia. Despite its few years of independence and severe political and economic dependence on its neighbours, Kazakhstan seems today able to afford a more pragmatic policy in economic and strategic terms. The decree on the visa regime for the Kyrgyzstani citizens is itself an evidence of remarkable changes. The analysis of Kazakhstan's regional policy since its 'catapult to independence', especially that of the last few years, shows that two major trends will dominate its future regional policy: the establishment of interactions with the neighbouring countries favourable in economic terms and the entrenchment of balanced (or counterbalanced) relations with Russia and China. Ironically, the complexity of regional interests encourages the development and expansion of multilateral institutions and unions in the region but impedes their functioning and imposition, providing countries like Kazakhstan with de jure umbrella but without any serious controlling body. Kazakhstan seems fully aware of this. Indeed, this was true for the Commonwealth of Independent States, where Kazakhstan was one of the most active participants and the initiator of a number of forums, projects and treaties. Today, a similar trend seems valid for the Shanghai Union, which expands its ' jurisdiction' over more and more members and problems and where Kazakhstan plays a similar active and 'expansionist' role. In this respect, the declaration of Nursultan Nazarbayev that the Shanghai Union should also deal with ecological and humanitarian issues apart from its political and economic questions and should strengthen its co-operation with other international and regional organizations, such as ASEAN, is worthy of being scrutinized.