The President of Kazakhstan’s visit to Iran is politically and economically important. The Islamic Republic of Iran is on the verge of joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and will become increasingly attractive for the countries of the region due to the opening of the international markets. The threats of extremism and terrorism, the need to interact for regional stability and the expansion of the mutual economic cooperation were among the subjects that were addressed in the recent diplomatic relations.
Despite three decades of positive interactions, the central region of Asia has not yet found an important position in Iran’s regional policies. Moreover, the small share of the regional countries in Iran’s foreign relations is not pertaining to a specific period, but different reasons have led to this issue. For example, part of the problem is due to the international pressures and impositions including the US policy to the effect that “everything minus Iran”. Furthermore, it is related to the policy of eliminating Iran's strategic capacities, and on the inside, it stems from the international pressures and sanctions imposed on Iran’s economic development which has made the possibility of profound and effective economic interactions very limited.
But I think the main cause is the weakness of Iran’s private sector. Moreover, if central Asian countries have extensive economic relations with China, Turkey, and the European Union, part of it is due to the strength of their private sectors. Additionally, the weakness of our private sector has rendered the existing capacities somewhat stagnant. In other words, the economic structure of the country and its foreign policy have caused this weakness, because they have failed to develop appropriate regional and economic relations with these countries to reduce the international pressure.
There are many economic benefits in accessing the open seas, cultural and social interactions and trade relations between Iran and the countries in Central Asia. We could reinforce and expand these areas. Unfortunately, for various reasons such as sanctions, advertising fear of Iran, and the interference of extra-regional powers, we have not used the capacity of the regional and international cooperation between Iran and the countries in Central Asia. In general, Iran’s relations with the commonwealth have been positive with mutual respect, and there is hope for more relations in the future.
Iran and Kazakhstan in addition to the mutual relations, also work together in the framework of the SCO, the joint meetings of the Caspian Sea and the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) which will expand after Iran is a fixed member of SCO. Signing the important economic agreements by the President of Kazakhstan during his recent visit is an important step towards expanding economic cooperation between the two countries.
The Islamic Republic of Iran, due to the region’s geopolitical position can be the best country in terms of political and economic relations and transportation, especially for Astana the capital of Kazakhstan. However, this requires a powerful infrastructure in the field of transportation, buying new airplanes, expanding airports, and reducing the pressure of the West on these countries. As long as there are pressure and lack of infrastructure, there can be no hope for our unique position. Now, in the absence of Iran, this position has oriented towards Istanbul, Shanghai, and even Dubai. This issue should be addressed in the country’s domestic policies to develop the economic and foreign policy and facilitate the regional and international situations.
Jahangir Karami, an associate professor at the University of Tehran, is the senior fellow at The IRAS Institute.