by Yerbolat Uatkhanov
ASTANA, June 5 (Xinhua) -- Kazakhstan has fully embraced the Belt and Road Initiative and is looking forward to more cooperation within the framework of the China-proposed initiative, says a leading expert in the country.
"Kazakh-Chinese relations have always been stable," noted Ruslam Izimov, head of the Eurasian Studies Program at the Institute of World Economy and Politics, in a recent interview with Xinhua.
"Kazakhstan and China have signed a large number of contracts and agreements in different fields over the last quarter of a century. And today this cooperation is all-embracing," he added.
He recalled that bilateral ties have been well developed in the energy sector, and in recent years great attention has been given to cooperation in transportation, agriculture, investment and interbank associations.
Highlighting that China is one of the top priorities of Kazakhstan's foreign policy, Izimov said, "we have always regarded China as a key and strategic partner, our neighbor, with whom we build friendly relations based on mutual understanding and mutual benefits."
The Belt and Road Initiative, he stressed, is of special importance to the Central Asian nation, since Chinese President Xi Jinping raised the initiative for the first time in Kazakhstan.
Xi proposed the building of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road in Kazakhstan and Indonesia, respectively, in 2013, which later evolved into the Belt and Road Initiative.
Izimov said Kazakhstan has a very positive attitude toward the initiative because it allows the country and other nations in the region to become a kind of bridge between different civilizations and continents.
"Kazakhstan was one of the first states to put forward a counterpart initiative called Nurly Zhol, which is a Kazakh program to enhance cooperation with China at a higher level," said the expert. Nurly Zhol means "bright path" in the Kazakh language.
"In 2014 the two countries signed an agreement aimed at merging the two programs. Thanks to this decision, a lot of projects, such as the construction of the Khorgos dry port, have been implemented," Izimov said.
"We need more ways to connect our countries," he said.
Izimov added that the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in May in Beijing drew together many world leaders and representatives, who came not only from the Eurasian continent but from around the world.
"As the Chinese leader has said, every country has an opportunity to participate in this initiative because it is not a solo project. This is a multilateral initiative," Izimov said.
Based on an agreement between China and Kazakhstan, three factories have been established in Kazakhstan, including one for the assembling of hybrid cars that can operate using gas and electricity.
More than 50 projects have been planned and new plants will be opened in Kazakhstan, he said, adding that the projects aim to create new jobs in the country and diversify the economy.
Talking about Xi's upcoming visit to his country, Izimov said it is an opportunity for both countries to find new ways to cooperate.
"The visit of Xi Jinping is always significant for us, since China is our strategic partner," said Izimov. "Now, after the May forum, there is an opportunity to make new plans."