UAE-Kazakhstan Ties in a Turbulent World

Published December 20th, 2022 - 04:47 GMT
Kazakhstan pavilion in the Dubai Expo
Kazakhstan pavilion in the Dubai Expo 2020 (Shutterstock)

Relations between the Republic of Kazakhstan in North Central Asia and the United Arab Emirates in the Arabian Peninsula began three decades ago (October 1992). Meanwhile, important developments in the two sides’ relations, such as the opening of the consulate general of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Dubai in 1997, the opening of the UAE embassy in Kazakhstan in 2005, and the opening of the Kazakhstan embassy in the UAE in 2006 have created platforms for future multidimensional relations.

Important political and geopolitical opportunities for relations:

The 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries has been strengthened, while Kazakhstan has established diplomatic relations with more than 180 countries, and the UAE has extended its diplomatic relations to many countries and regions.

Apart from the first visit of Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to the UAE in January 2020 after assuming the presidency, multiple high-level reciprocal visits in 2021 and 2022 have deepened relations.

Apart from Tokayev's trip to Abu Dhabi to condole the death of the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the various trips of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the UAE and the various trips of Emirati officials to Kazakhstan and the signing of several legal documents are part of the attention of the two countries to the expansion of diplomatic and comprehensive relations. 

The first agreements between the two governments were signed in the 1990s, but gradually the two countries expanded the field of cooperation by compiling about 100 comprehensive and various bilateral legal documents. In this regard, the joint committee of the UAE and the Republic of Kazakhstan and political consultations between the two countries have and will play an important role in increasing the level of diplomatic relations to the level of strategic partnership.

These relations have been strengthened by the UAE's support for Kazakhstan's efforts to maintain security and restore stability, naming one of Astana's streets after Sheikh Khalifa, mutual approaches such as parliamentary relations, and the formation of a parliamentary friendship group.

Kazakhstan's multilateral foreign policy is seeking to strengthen its "pioneer" leadership position in Central Asia and advance long-term interests to overcome the current tense and unpredictable global situation.

Therefore, "Astana" hosts various senior leaders and diplomats, which shows diversity in its strategic partnership and the balanced approach of Kazakhs in the field of diplomacy.

In fact, in its recent foreign policy documents, Astana plays its role as an active and responsible member of the international community and seeks neutrality in the challenge between its regional and extra-regional actors.

The UAE's foreign policy is also affected by several factors of its geographical location, internal stability and security, and securing the economic benefits of being a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

It seems that following the gradual reduction of the role of America in the structure of the international system and the Middle East, the UAE, has taken a more balanced approach in its foreign policy. In this regard, Abu Dhabi sees the Caspian Sea as an area with strategic geo-economics and has developed the depth of its role in Central Asia. In fact, the countries of Central Asia are considered as Muslim countries, and have long-standing historical, cultural, and religious partnerships with the UAE.

On the other hand, considering the increasing regional role of Kazakhstan in the region, Abu Dhabi's wider relations with Astana can help the UAE to be more present in Central Asia, Shanghai, and other regional institutions.

In addition, in the foreign policy of the UAE and the multifaceted foreign approach of Kazakhstan, strengthening the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of the country, maintaining the independence of foreign policy; paying attention to national interests, establishing security, dealing with traditional challenges and security threats such as terrorism, extremism, arms race, nuclear and space, climate change and other threats has become more important. These platforms actually create important opportunities for bilateral cooperation.

Also, the shared values and views of the two sides in peace, security, and stability in the two regions and the world, security concerns, and curbing the effects of various crises have become a part of bilateral foreign relations.

Therefore, joint security cooperation based on maintaining international peace and security, strengthening efforts to deal with international terrorism and extremism through anti-terrorism coalitions, such as CICA, has developed relations.

On the other hand, dialogue or supporting each other's positions on international issues and cooperation in regional and international organizations such as the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), etc., have led to align the political and strategic positions of the Abu Dhabi's with Astana.

In another dimension, the investigation of new opportunities for cooperation in other fields of technology, such as space, has been highlighted.

Kazakhstan is among the countries with space technology, and the UAE also attaches great importance to the development of national capabilities in the space sector of its national projects.

Therefore, the memorandum of understanding and cooperation agreement between the two countries in the field of peaceful use, space research, use of space infrastructure, and provision and use of space launch services have given new dimensions to relations.

Also, with the presence of Kazakhstan as the world's uranium producer and the existence of platforms for peaceful nuclear cooperation, the existence of incentives for the development of bilateral cooperation in the fields of defense, military, and technology, can be more milestones in creating a permanent and promising strategic partnership. 

Important economic and cultural opportunities:

The UAE is striving to diversify its economy and reduce its dependence on oil, achieve the goals of the UAE 2050 energy strategy, the economic vision of 2030, and improve its position in renewable energy, expand ports and commercial infrastructure, and expand tourism until 2050, etc.  Kazakhstan is the largest economy in Central Asia. In Astana's foreign policy, the economic dimension has also been strengthened, and the number of its priorities has increased. 

An important part of its activity is focused on helping the development of non-oil sectors of the country's economy. Also, as a landlocked country, Kazakhstan has tried to reduce its dependence on its two powerful neighbors and to have better access to southern open waters by diversifying its communication routes.

In the past years, various economic delegations have contributed to the strong relations between Abu Dhabi and Astana through economic partnerships and expanding the number of companies in the opposite country. The UAE is the most important strategic, commercial and economic partner of Kazakhstan in the Arab countries.  In this regard, the volume of trade between the two countries reached a record of 709 million dollars in 2021.

In addition, Kazakhstan is the largest country that attracts capital in Central Asia. While the priorities of Astana's economic diplomacy are the development of international cooperation to attract investment in the basic sectors of the economy, the UAE is one of the main and most attractive destinations for investment in the region.

In this regard, due to bilateral policies such as avoiding double taxation, encouragement and mutual support of investments, foreign direct investment from the UAE to Kazakhstan has doubled in the first six months of 2022, and the volume of trade exchanges has also increased.

In addition, apart from the UAE's investment projects in various sectors of energy, transportation, and logistics, agricultural sectors, new opportunities for cooperation in the field of investment, information technology, and artificial intelligence can lead to the opening of new channels of mutual interest, especially between the private sector. Abu Dhabi will probably try to make Kazakhstan play an important role in the food security strategy of the United Arab Emirates.

Moreover, cultural relations are expanding through agreements such as cultural cooperation between two countries, participation in world exhibitions, international cultural and entertainment festivals, and tourism cooperation agreements. In the meantime, the expansion of air flights, and the removal of visas for the citizens of the two countries will lead to a large increase in tourists and the activity of bilateral commercial communication.


Although the volume of current relations between the UAE and Kazakhstan is not very high, however, bilateral attention to the expansion of political, geopolitical and political relations along with various economic potentials to create effective multilateral cooperation will certainly improve relations in areas such as energy and renewable energy, mining complexes, transportation and logistics, and construction. 

However, the improvement and favorable business environment for both countries in their own region and Kazakhstan's high global share in non-renewable natural resources will lead to UAE's investment in building a ‘new Kazakhstan’. In addition, the strategic geographical position of the two countries, along with the will of Astana and Abu Dhabi to strengthen the security-defense and political-geopolitical dimensions, can increase cooperation in a strategic and strategic format.


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