Kazakhstan Strengthens Trust between East and West
June 28. MFA
The author, Yerkin Tukumov, is Chief of Analytical Department of Kazakhstan’s Security Council.
World history has repeatedly demonstrated that the inability to coexist peacefully and conduct sound and timely dialogue brings grave political and humanitarian consequences to humankind.
The past two decades introduced drastic changes to the world. The end of the Cold War was followed by continuing ambiguity and widespread conflicts around the world. These contrasted with globalisation processes, the widening gap between the “Golden Billion” of the industrialized world and the rest of humanity. It also saw a sharp increase in new threats sheltering beneath religious slogans. International terrorism turned out to be a widespread plague in the new era.
There still exist barriers in the minds of people that divide humanity into mutually-intolerant racial, religious and cultural groups. Inter-ethnic and interfaith conflicts tend to retain their severity. Certain groups of politicians continue to propagate the alleged inevitability of the global clash of civilizations.
All this has created an urgent need to strengthen cooperation and develop effective mechanisms for the resolution of conflicts between different civilisations in the limelight of the global arena. In the context of increasing globalisation, dialogue between civilisations has gained new global intellectual and political significance.
A stable and secure future for all peoples clearly requires active and targeted efforts to prevent any religion from being used in politics to generate political, social and military conflicts, the manifestation of terrorism and extremism, ethnic and cultural hostility and hatred of other people.
Even during the most difficult years of Kazakhstan’s era of independence, when a wave of violent nationalism swept virtually all post-Soviet countries, our nation has managed to avoid the virus, and other forms of social hatred. Some states still cannot get out of this quagmire: They veer uneasily between proclaiming the shaky “friendship of peoples” and the collapse of their own statehood.
During its years of independence, Kazakhstan has established and developed its own national model of interethnic and interreligious harmony: This is fully consistent with the country’s domestic needs and meets external challenges in this very sensitive and complex area. Respect, tolerance and unity form the strong three-pronged framework that ensures the efficiency of Kazakhstan’s economy and underpin the political stability of the state.
Historically, the Kazakh people considered tolerance as not an academic, but a practical concept, defining the path to inner development and, ultimately, to survival.
Sharing the responsibility of all nation states for the fate of the world, Kazakhstan is actively involved in the development and further strengthening of constructive interaction among civilisations. This country is persistently developing foreign policy projects aimed at fostering dialogue and the partnership of all the traditional religions of the world. Kazakhstan strives to spread the values of tolerance around the globe. It recognizes that tolerance is one of the major conditions for ensuring security in the modern circumstances.
From the early days of independence, Kazakhstan has focused its efforts on its so called multi-vector foreign policy. Located in the heart of Eurasia, both geographically and politically, the country is a natural land bridge between the East and the West. Over the past two decades, Kazakhstan’s determination to embrace global ideas and cooperation for the sake of common goals has appeared to be the soundest key indicator of the country’s independent development.
It was not by chance that since 2003 Astana has become home to the internationally recognised Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, which has thrice gathered representatives of dozens of denominations from more than 70 countries of the world. Kazakhstan’s contribution in promoting intercultural dialogue was commended once again following in December 2007 the United Nations General Assembly made a unanimous decision to proclaim 2010 as the International Year of Rapprochement of Cultures, having supported the initiative of the country.
In 2008, Astana hosted a forum of Foreign Ministers of Muslim and Western countries “Common World: Progress through Diversity” (“The Muslim World and the West”). The leaders of such leading Arab states as Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, as well as the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) supported the forum. The meeting in Astana provided a useful platform for discussions over finding practical approaches to address such pressing issues as economic cooperation, mutual adaptation of cultures and development of interfaith dialogue.
Kazakhstan extensively uses the potential of multilateral diplomacy. As a member of many international organizations and integration associations, Kazakhstan has consistently taken practical steps to involve these organisations in dialogue between cultures and religions.
During its chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010, Kazakhstan included the issues of dialogue between cultures and religions, as well as promoting tolerance and the fight against all forms of discrimination in the agenda of this reputable assembly.
Kazakhstan’s upcoming chairmanship in the 38th Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers will provide an additional international significance to the initiatives launched by the country in the field of intercultural communication. Kazakhstan’s presidency of the OIC CFM will become a unique opportunity for Kazakh diplomacy to qualitatively strengthen the policy of establishing dialogue among civilisations based on the country’s rich experience in this sphere.
The dialogue of civilisations is also important from the economic point of view. The East and the West need closer cooperation in dealing with socio-economic and humanitarian problems of the Islamic world. For the difficulties faced by Muslim communities around the world represent a serious challenge for the stability of the West itself.
The time has come to shatter the confidence, entrenched in a number of influential countries of the world, that believe their own values and the messianism that flows from them are absolute. But the East also needs to change its approaches that too often feature passive and stereotypical thinking.
It is important to understand that neither the West, nor the East has a monopoly on all the right answers. The longer it will take to get rid of these sluggish approaches, the more painful it will be to adapt to new modern realities, the harder it will be to find common ground for establishing mechanisms of cooperation, and the more serious the ideology of fascism and religious radicalism will become.
There exist no alternatives to the dialogue between the East and the West. Likewise, no alternatives exist to the inter-Islamic dialogue as well. Only through joint efforts all countries of the world will be able to solve the knotty problem of injustice in all of its aspects, gradually taking off from the global agenda the existing and potentially dangerous tensions.