China's bid to enter Saarc stonewalled

China's bid to enter  Saarc stonewalled

 New Delhi stonewalled Beijing’s bid to get a bigger role in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc), as the 18th summit of the eight-nation bloc in Kathmandu on Thursday ended with the leaders just agreeing to explore development cooperation with China as well as other observers like the US, Australia, Japan, Iran and Korea.

“The leaders directed the programming committee to engage the Saarc observers into productive, demand-driven and objective project-based cooperation in priority areas as identified by the member states,” stated the Kathmandu Declaration adopted at the end of the summit on Thursday.

China, now an observer in the Saarc, has been seeking an entry to the regional organisation, but its bid has been opposed by India, which is now the largest and most influential member of the eight-nation bloc.

While Pakistan has been steadily supporting China’s entry, Beijing of late elicited muted support from two other Saarc members — Sri Lanka and Maldives.

Beijing recently offered China’s support to India’s bid to be a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation — a six-nation bloc floated as a counterweight to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ostensibly to restrict the US role in Central Asia.

During his recent visit to India, Chinese President Xi Jinping requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reciprocate the gesture by backing Beijing’s attempt to enter the Saarc. New Delhi, however, was not ready.

At the summit, China was represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin.
The Saarc had earlier decided to explore the possibility of elevating the observers to the status of dialogue partners and the secretariat of the bloc had carried out a study, which was reviewed by the leaders during the summit.

With New Delhi digging its heels in, the summit however ended without any specific decision on elevating the observers and the leaders just asking the programming committee to engage the observers in development cooperation with the members of the bloc.

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