Sandwiched Mongolia looks beyond its two gigantic neighbours

Mongolia’s unavoidable environment — surrounded by two big civilisations, with fast-growing markets and nuclear powers — created challenges and opportunities. The Western economic sanctions followed by the Tiananmen incident in 1989 led to the establishment of a strategic partnership between Russia and China; and a new regional organisation, the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, which is expanding to central and south Asia. Mongolia is the only country in inner Asia which is not a member of this organisation. Due to the crisis in east Ukraine, the West put sanctions on Russia. However, this gave the economic and energy co-operation between Russia and China a new momentum. Therefore, one can say geopolitics is an integral part of everyday lives of Mongolians.
The priority in foreign policy of Mongolia is to maintain friendly relations with its neighbours. However, while Mongolia is a landlocked country, it pursues a “third-neighbour policy”, with the purpose to be open and firmly connected with the outer world through political, economic, security and people-to-people links.
In the framework of this policy, Mongolia aims to effectively collaborate with Australia through bilateral and multilateral co-operation. I note with great pleasure the close bilateral co-operation within international financial institutions such as the World Bank.
Education became a strong bridge between Mongolia and Australia. More than 400 “Mozzies”, including parliamentarians and members of the cabinet, studied in Australia. The number of Mongolian students studying in Australia have tripled during the past three years, to nearly 900.
Like other nations of the region, Mongolia praises the New Colombo Plan, which has already started playing a great role in bringing Australia closer to the Asia-Pacific. Mongolia has been invited to participate and the first Australian students are on their way to Mongolia.
A visit by the Mongolian Foreign Minister last year was the first such trip in more than 20 years. It has deepened bilateral political understanding and expanded the partnership.
The bilateral consultations and exchange of high-ranking officials has also intensified. Mongolia received with great pleasure the recent announcement by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop that Australia will open its embassy in Ulaanbaatar. It was important that within the spirit of Australia’s economic diplomacy the Australia-Mongolia Business council was established, with the support of companies such as Minter Ellison and Rio Tinto. More than 60 Australian companies operate their offices in Ulaanbaatar, making this country one of the most important investors in Mongolia.
A concessional agreement was concluded between the Mongolian government and Australian company Aspire Mining early this year to build a 700km railway in the north of Mongolia. Mongolia welcomes the presence of Australian businesses in inner Asia. There is no doubt that the decision to continue the $5.4 billion second stage of the Oyu Tolgoi project will give fresh and greater opportunities to Australian investors. The government of Mongolia is also working towards utilising the Tavan Tolgoi deposit, which has one of the world’s largest reserves of coking coal — 6.5 billion tonnes. We hope economic utilisation of these two deposits could have a positive impact on global mining development.
There is a wide potential for bilateral co-operation in agriculture and tourism. The recently signed defence co-operation accord will strengthen links between our defence forces.
Redistribution of wealth within the Asia-Pacific region affects the balance of power. In these circumstances, the mutual trust and understanding within the international co-operation will remain greatly important.
Multilateral co-operation provides small nations with an opportunity to strengthen their interests and make contributions. Mongolia is actively participating at international peacekeeping operations under the UN mandate. Mongolian troops have been deployed in South Sudan for the past three years; it is the second-largest Mongolian deployment in Africa.
Mongolia will host the 20th anniversary summit of the Asia-Europe meeting in July next year. The heads of states and governments of 65 nations will convene in Mongolia. Mongolia is a small but responsible partner; it is actively determined towards its own sustainable development, also to the stability and peace in north Asia.
Ravdan Bold is the outgoing Mongolian ambassador to Australia.



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