Dr. Edward Lemon, professor at Texas A&M University; “Cooperation between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan promotes regional stability and prosperity.”


Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are developing various strategies and taking a number of measures within the framework of these strategies to improve trade relations in bilateral relations. Currently, the volume of trade between the two countries amounts to $ 1.2 billion. The parties have a common will to increase this figure to $2 billion. Undoubtedly, the strategic partnership and the development of economic relations between the two countries also promote regional stability and prosperity.

In this context, the Ankara Centre for Crisis and Political Studies (ANKASAM) presents the views of Dr. Edward Lemon, professor at Texas A&M University, on the evaluation of relations between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan and his thoughts on Central Asia.

1. Considering the goal of increasing the volume of trade between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan to $2 billion, what steps can the parties take?

Currently, the volume of trade between the two countries is $1.2 billion. With a relatively smaller economy, Kazakhstan is Kyrgyzstan’s third largest trading partner after Russia and China. It must be noted that the balance in these relations is in favor of Kazakhstan. However, there are several obstacles to the $2 billion trade volume. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has increased Kyrgyzstan’s trade gains, as Kyrgyzstan has become a transshipment point, especially for goods coming from China and transported to Russia via Kazakhstan.

On the other hand, both countries are members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). In this context, the parties have relaxed tariffs, but many tariff barriers remain. Concerns about smuggling and a desire to protect critical sectors such as agriculture have led to a number of trade restrictions. Anti-corruption measures and closer cooperation between governments to resolve political disputes could open the door to increased trade relations.

2. How do the historical and geographical ties between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan contribute to the development of multilateral cooperation?

Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have close cultural and linguistic ties, share a 1,200-kilometre border, and maintain close political and economic relations. Interpersonal interaction through migration and tourism remains strong. Relations between the two governments are positive, with occasional disputes over trade or political disagreements. This creates the conditions for close cooperation in relations between the two countries.

3. What challenges might Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan face in deepening their interstate and interparliamentary relations? How can these challenges be overcome?

Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are members of many regional organizations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Turkic States Organization, and the EAEU. They all have platforms for intergovernmental and interparliamentary cooperation. However, there are limitations. Kyrgyzstan is suspicious of its more powerful neighbor and does not want to be too dependent on Astana.

4. Can you give examples of cultural and humanitarian initiatives that have strengthened relations between the two parties? What impact have these initiatives had on the two communities?

Kazakhstan has made significant investments in Kyrgyzstan. For example, in 2011 it launched a $100 million “Kazakh-Kyrgyz Investment Fund.” This fund is currently inactive, but Kazakhstan accounts for about 10% of foreign direct investment in Kyrgyzstan. Kazakhstan has invested in key sectors such as renewable energy and agriculture. The country also provided assistance during the Covid 19 pandemic, such as masks and respirators.

5. Given the strategic partnership between the two countries, what potential areas of cooperation hold promise for promoting long-term regional stability and prosperity in Central Asia?

Relations between the two countries could be much stronger. This is because both sides want to avoid dependence on a single external supporter by trying to diversify their external ties. In addition to the areas mentioned above, there are other sectors where cooperation would be beneficial. These include renewable energy and technology. Both sides are also interested in coordinating their positions on regional issues, such as the war in Ukraine. The development of bilateral relations can help increase the prosperity and independence of both countries in particular and Central Asia in general.

Dr. Edward LEMON
Dr. Edward Lemon is a faculty member at the Bush School of Public Service and Administration at Texas A&M University and serves on the Washington DC Teaching Centre. He is also president of the Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs. In 2016, he received his PhD from the University of Exeter. His research focuses on China-Russia and Central Asian relations, regional security issues, and migration.

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