Dr Muhammad Munir
KAZAKHSTAN is celebrating 20th anniversary of its new Capital Astana which is one of the planned and modern cities of the world. It was announced as new capital of Kazakhstan on June 10, 1998. In 1999, the city was given the title of ‘City of Peace’ by UNESCO. During the last twenty years the city has acquired a great status not only having political, economic and cultural value but also referred, by many, as ‘centre of diplomacy, peacemaking and international development’. Owing to visionary leadership of President Nursultan Nazarbayev who through his adroit policies has successfully enabled the country to effectively play its productive role for region’s political, social, economic uplift and security stability. In fact, the peaceful growth is the real virtue of Kazakhstan that in a very short span of time, the country has successfully accomplished something that no other country of the Central Asian region has so far achieved in the aftermath of the Soviet Union.
In its very young history, the capital of Kazakhstan – Astana, a modern, beautiful and dynamic city in the heart of Eurasia has persistently been contributing with pertinent role for promoting international cooperation, peace, security and prosperity. Under the leadership of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the country has been following reconciliatory principles with policy of peaceful coexistence for mutual development. The skillful diplomacy of the country has effectively established the city of Astana as a place of multi-vector characteristics for promoting and strengthening bilateral and multilateral relations amongst regional countries, great powers and an international forum for fruitful diplomacy and discussion to resolve various regional and international issues. Today Astana- the city of peace is pride of the Kazakh nation – thanks to the visionary leadership of President Nursultan Nazarbayev who decided to make this city as a modern metropolis having all the advanced facilities. Many regional and international educational, scientific, diplomatic, economic and cultural events take place in Astana.
The city has now become a centre of attraction for the whole world. Astana has gained status of the City of Peace in the contemporary world for its contribution as centre of regional cooperation and has been serving as platform for discussing and resolving contemporary international problems. It provides opportunity for regional and international community for seeking the path of peaceful resolution of various disputes through meaningful negotiations based on the principles of mutual respect, non-interference and shared responsibility for peace and security. Demographically, the highly literate populace of Astana mostly comprising of politically conscious urban middle class is determined to touch new milestones in science, education, IT, innovation and development. Given the benign opportunities by their leader, the people of Astana also strive to support the goals of diversifying national economy relying on the oil and natural resources towards scientific revolution and industrialization.
Nowadays, Astana has become an exemplar for rapid economic growth with actively increasing investment every year therefore, its gross regional product significantly exceeds to 15.1 billion USD while through small and medium sized businesses it also contributes 12 percent in the national GDP. Astana is now engine of the national economy. The initiatives of Astana smart city is the motivation for its potential as financial free zone besides Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) that serve as role model of financial and investment centre and a trade hub of the region. Though the constitutional law on Astana International Financial Centre was approved in 2015, however, formed in January 2018, AIFC is a proceeding of the special legal status based on EXPO of 2017 and President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s announcement of “100 Concrete Steps” with country’s ambition to join the 30 foremost developed nations of the world by 2050. The AIFC comprising five prominent pillars that include Capital Markets, Asset Management, Financial Technology, Islamic Finance, and Private Banking all setup for enabling the AIFC to significantly play role of financial hub and potentially attracts financial resources for the Central Asia States, Eurasia Economic Union, Europe, China, Middle East and Mongolia. The Central Asian region and the many other countries of the world will be greatly benefitting from the economic activities being held in the Kazakh capital with the creation of Astana International Financial Centre.
The economic development vital for the national growth is however, also considered through the lenses of environmental protection thus Astana also has International Centre for Green Technologies and Investment Projects that have high consideration for the importance of environmental preservation and protection. Kazakhstan promoting International Technopark of Information Technology Startups on the territory of EXPO 2017 infrastructure prospectively gear-up and contribute for the scientific development with innovative technologies in the Central Asian region and beyond. The international specialized EXPO 2017 held in Astana was also a remarkable success that attracted international focus on energy security and the sustainable development. Highlighting the momentous stature of Astana in the regional and international affairs, an international conference was also recently held in Astana on June 5, 2018 on the 20th anniversary of the creation of the city as Kazakhstan’s capital. The celebration followed by the conference titled “Astana: The City of Peace” was a remarkable event that primarily focused on capital city of Kazakhstan located in the heart of Eurasia and for its historical role for the economic, political, diplomatic, peaceful development of the Central Asian region as well as contribution to the rest of the world. Astana has now become a platform for major regional and international initiatives including the Silk Road Economic Belt and various other significant economic cooperation initiatives such as the Eurasian Economic Union.
— The writer is senior Research Fellow at Islamabad Policy Research Institute, a think-tank based in Islamabad.