Kazakhstan has in a compromise measure agreed to provide diplomatic accreditation to representatives of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan but stopped short of recognizing the legitimacy of the government itself.
In a statement to reporters on April 17, Foreign Ministry spokesman Aibek Smadiyarov said that the Taliban’s envoys would be provided with premises for an embassy.
“The arrival of representatives of the new administration in Afghanistan does not signify recognition. That remains the prerogative of the United Nations,” Smadiyarov said.
Smadiyarov noted that a similar arrangement is already in place in numerous countries, including some that neighbor Kazakhstan, such as China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as well as Pakistan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
This diplomatic concession appears designed to advance Kazakh plans to increase trade with Afghanistan. Plans are in motion to open a trading liaison office in Kabul.
“Our manufacturers and businesspeople are very interested in expanding their product range [for export]. The population of Afghanistan, according to the UN, is about 40 million people. This is a very large and promising market,” Smadiyarov said.
Recent breakthroughs in the bilateral relationship are the result of agreements reached during Kazakh Trade Minister Serik Zhumangarin’s trip to Kabul on April 15. One deal during that visit included the supply of $4 million worth of flour to Afghanistan. The visiting delegation seeded more goodwill at the time by pledging to donate 5,400 tons of foodstuffs over the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
In truth, trade relations have rarely been this good. Bilateral trade between Kazakhstan and Afghanistan last year amounted to almost $1 billion, twice as much as in 2021, the year that the Taliban seized control. In the first two months of this year alone, the volume of trade almost doubled as compared to the same period in 2022. This is almost all Kazakh goods going to Afghanistan. More than half of those exports are flour. Imports from Afghanistan barely exceeded $9 million in 2022 and comprised mostly sugary drinks, dried fruits, vegetables and paper.
When President Ashraf Ghani’s government fell to the Taliban following the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2001, trade was briefly curtailed by technical difficulties in effecting interbank transactions. This problem has since been addressed through reliance on banking institutions in third countries, however.
Almaz Kumenov is an Almaty-based journalist.