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Russia keen to join SAARC as observer

Moscow's keenness to be associated with the SAARC stems out of the positive development in Indo-Pak relations.

india Updated: Nov 22, 2006 17:07 IST

Encouraged by the improvement in relations between India and Pakistan, Russia has expressed interest to join the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in the role of an 'Observer' to expand the grouping beyond the region.

Moscow's keenness to be associated with the SAARC stems out of the positive development in Indo-Pak relations and expansion of the grouping beyond the region, the 'Dawn' quoted a Russian diplomat as saying.

"Russia has a big interest in SAARC and it is clear that it cannot remain out of the process with countries like Afghanistan joining in and Iran also making a bid for it," the diplomat said.

Moscow is seriously contemplating a bid for the Observer status but it has still to approach the SAARC chair or the Secretariat in Kathmandu, he said, adding that a decision was expected to be taken after sounding the member states, especially India, with whom it has a strategic relationship.

While there is no official confirmation, Russian Foreign Minister Sergi Lavrov, who visited Pakistan and India recently, may have discussed the matter with New Delhi.

China and the United States have already been admitted as Observers by SAARC and Iran too has evinced interest to join.

Officials at the Foreign Ministry here said the Russian Foreign Minister did not raise this topic during his visit to Pakistan.

But if it did, Pakistan would welcome it, is the dominant view in the foreign policy circles here.

Pakistan had played a key role in helping Russia get the Observer status in the Organisation of Islamic Conference last year and in turn Russia helped Pakistan get the same status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.