‘KazanForum gives an opportunity to convey Russia's position to friendly states’

What effect is expected from the main platform of cooperation with Muslim states

‘KazanForum gives an opportunity to convey Russia's position to friendly states’
Photo: Максим Платонов

The XV Russia — Islamic World: KazanForum International Economic Forum opened in Kazan yesterday, which is held in the status of a federal one. Today, this is the country's main platform for cooperation with Muslim states, and the fact that Tatarstan is its organiser demonstrates the universal recognition of effective interaction between society and government in the region, experts say. More about what hopes they have and what the main expectations from the forum are connected with — in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

“Russia values friendly relations with Muslim countries”

The Russia — Islamic World: KazanForum International Economic Forum lasts for almost a week — from May 14 to May 19. These days Kazan is becoming a platform for strengthening trade, economic, scientific, technical, social and cultural ties between our country and the states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

The Forum is being held for the 15th time and for the second year in a row as a federal one — Vladimir Putin gave it this status by decree last year. Welcoming the participants of the current KazanForum, the head of the state noted that Tatarstan once again clearly demonstrates its rich potential, and its achievements serve as evidence of the significant contribution of Russian Muslims and residents of the republic to the development of the Fatherland and influence in the world. “Russia values traditionally friendly relations with Muslim countries. We highly appreciate their desire to pursue an independent foreign policy and enhance their role in international affairs," the Russian leader stressed.

The organising committee of the forum is headed by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin, who said that Muslim states have already shown strong ties and willingness to cooperate with Russia, and KazanForum has established itself as a platform where a bilateral constructive dialogue is conducted. Over 20,000 guests from more than 80 countries have come to the forum this year, including delegations from Abkhazia, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brazil, Jordan, Iran, Cameroon, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Malaysia, UAE, Pakistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Uganda. More than 50 diplomats from the embassies and consulates of the OIC countries are also involved.

The federal status of KazanForum is a high assessment of its role

The forum was opened by the Kazan Halal Market International Trade Fair in Agroprompark, where halal products from Tatarstan and the OIC countries are presented. The business programme also includes the main events: a meeting of the Russia — Islamic World Strategic Vision Group, where they discuss a just multipolar world order and secure development; a UNESCO panel session on the role of World Cultural Heritage in the development of regions; a plenary session of the forum on the financial and logistics infrastructure of Russia and the BRICS countries.

The central theme of the forum was Islamic finance, so a number of events on this topic are planned. Among them, the session of the National Bank of Russia on partner financing and new experience is highlighted. Besides, 45 agreements are going to be signed on the sidelines of the forum, intergovernmental commissions and bilateral conferences will be held for the first time, where Russia, Kuwait, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia are going to discuss cooperation issues.

“The fact that KazanForum has become federal is certainly a high assessment of its role and significance. Certainly, in the current situation of challenges facing our country, this is one of the few platforms that provides an opportunity to express Russia's position and bring it to friendly countries. On the other hand, it makes it possible to effectively solve economic issues. Therefore, this is a platform for the exchange of views of both entrepreneurs and politicians, legislators, in general, for everyone," said State Duma Deputy Airat Farrakhov.

Within the framework of KazanForum, congresses of the Prosecutor General's offices, the accounting chambers of the OIC countries and the CIS tax authorities are also be held. They are holding a district meeting of the Russian Export Centre with ministerial sessions in various areas. The forum of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of the OIC countries and the first international real estate exhibition have been organised.

“Kazan may become the centre of the Islamic business movement”

Political expert Marat Bashirov, speaking about the increased importance and status of KazanForum, noted: “Moscow is not Russia. Russia is regions, so holding such events in the regions is a very important event! Tatarstan is actually an example of how the authorities and society communicate with each other. And the recognition of this effectiveness is reflected in that such events take place in the region.”

Touching upon one of the key topics of the forum — the formation of a multipolar world order, the expert considers it necessary, first of all, to reflect the position of states with Muslim populations. At the same time, representatives of different religions “generally live with the same problems, so I wouldn't share it here, that's not the point," he added.

“The point is that the authorities should think about an ordinary person, how they live and what they care about. The example of Tatarstan is just a clear demonstration that they know how to “grow” such people in power here, who, as President Putin says, know how to serve the people. This example is seen all over the world, including the international delegations that came to this forum. And we also see that Russia conducts its multinational policy in this way is highly appreciated in the world," Marat Bashirov is convinced.

Ilya Grashchenkov, another Russian political expert, believes that KazanForum is organised as part of attempts to master the so-called “global South”. At the same time, the concept itself is still new, not fully known, and what resources can be extracted from it has not yet been fully determined either:

“But the very attempt to make Kazan the centre of such Islamic business cooperation already commands great respect. Therefore, I think that the attempt is not fruitless. What effect can be expected for Tatarstan and Russia as a whole? At the end of the day, Kazan may be able to become one of the increasingly popular centres of the Islamic business movement. Today, these centres are located in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia in general. It is possible that Russia will also be able to connect through Kazan.”

If we talk about a fair multipolar world order, according to the expert, “of course, we are talking about that finances are now distributed more unevenly than before.” But in addition to the developed West, today there is a developed East, “for example, Dubai is the centre of technological and financial cooperation," he added.

“If we manage to get into this story and find partners in the Islamic world who are interested not only in some obvious bonuses, for example, supplying something, providing parallel imports, banking schemes, but also something more meaningful, then Russia, in fact, will be able to become a kind of ideologue of the movement of this multipolar world," Ilya Grashchenkov believes.

“It is necessary to determine the effectiveness criteria for the experiment”

Airat Farrakhov, as one of the authors of the law on Islamic banking, adopted in 2023, also expressed his expectations from the forum: “As a co-author of the law on partner financing, I look forward to continuing this work. The law has been passed, we are already conducting an experiment and the first year is coming to an end. Therefore, it is very important for us to make preliminary results and conclusions. That is why we asked KazanForum to hold a government commission, which was established by our law, and I am a member of it. We also invited the Bank of Russia. The Central Bank is holding discussions on the development of the issue of Islamic finance.”

“The issue is multifaceted, the possibilities are very wide. We all see how fast the Gulf countries are developing. Of course, it is important for us to create all the necessary conditions for these investments to come to our country," he stressed.

Back in the autumn, the State Duma deputy called for expanding the experiment and speeding up work on it. In response, the head of the Central Bank, Elvira Nabiullina, said that this could be done provided that the effect of the innovation would be obvious in the near future, adding that so far there are not so many participants. Meanwhile, it is within the framework of KazanForum that the preliminary results of the experiment should be presented.

Central Bank is holding discussions on the development of the issue of Islamic finance. Реальное время / realnoevremya.ru

“You know, today there are no official criteria for the effectiveness or inefficiency of the experiment. Therefore, many people talk about the number of participants in the register of the Bank of Russia. Perhaps, it's not as big as many would like, but I just wanted to raise this issue within the framework of the KazanForum. We need to determine the criteria of effectiveness, because at the end of the experiment we have to do it," explained Airat Farrakhov.

Secondly, it is important to soften the conditions for inclusion in the register of non-banking organisations. According to him, the rules are now set so that the participants of the experiment must fulfill “a number of serious requirements, which, in general, seem to me somewhat excessive and scare non-banking organisations away from this experiment.” As for the assessment of the first results of the experiment, the deputy considers them an important achievement:

“We have adopted a big law, we have been trying for ten years and raised this issue on KazanForum — this is already a great result! We are starting to form a regulatory framework. We are talking about the formation of a completely new financial market. Certainly, it is very difficult to do this in one or two years. Therefore, perhaps we should assess that everything is going well, but in general we could expand the experiment and accelerate its development. Because in any case, the ultimate goal will be to improve legislation and the legal framework for the introduction of partner financing.”

It is important to soften the conditions for inclusion in the register of non-banking organisations as part of the experiment, Airat Farrakhov believes. Максим Платонов / realnoevremya.ru

Other experts are cautiously assessing the prospects of the initiative. “This requires some complexity of the Russian economy. For now, it looks more like an excess for us, because we are still used to that there are some uniform rules. On the other hand, sanctions are now forcing Russia to take all sorts of unprecedented measures. Therefore, the second circuit of KazanForum in the form of Islamic banking may well take place, the experiment can theoretically be successful," Ilya Grashchenkov concluded.

Vasilya Shirshova
Tatarstan