At a time when China is stepping up pressure to become an active member, Saarc member states agreed on Monday to have meaningful engagement with all nine observers of the body.
Foreign secretaries of all eight member states decided on this during the two-day meeting of the 41st standing committee which concluded in Kathmandu on Monday evening. “
The committee decided to have a meaningful engagement with observers in priority areas identified by the members states,” Nepal’s acting foreign secretary Shanker Das Bairagi said. Priority areas include communications, infrastructure, tourism and public health, he said.
On Sunday, China’s Xinhua news agency carried a report quoting Nepali experts and politicians that it was an insult to keep restricting China to its observer status.
The report carried a statement by Nepal’s foreign minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey that his country would have no problem if all members agreed to provide membership status to China.
The committee agreed on closure of three Saarc regional centres and merger of four regional centres for setting up a new Saarc Environment and Disaster Management Centre.
Foreign and external affairs ministers of member states will meet on Tuesday to discuss the recommendations of the standing committee and fine tune the Kathmandu Declaration to be released at the end of the summit.