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China seeks bigger role in Saarc

At the 14th Saarc summit in Dhaka last year, China had debuted as an observer of the eight-nation South Asian bloc, reports Rahul Karmakar.

world Updated: May 23, 2008 01:53 IST
Rahul Karmakar

China has sought a greater role in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) besides envisaging Indian participation in a bid to form an EU-like Asian Economic Bloc.

Beijing is also “open” to the idea of New Delhi’s entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in view of the jihadi threat to India. SCO is an intergovernmental anti-terror body that China formed in 2001 with Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Its main agenda was to neutralise Islamic separatism in northwest China.

At the 14th Saarc summit in Dhaka last year, China had debuted as an observer of the eight-nation South Asian bloc. “The Saarc nations had accepted many of our proposals at the Dhaka summit,” said assistant Foreign Affairs minister He Yafei here on Thursday. “We are hoping for a bigger role at this year’s summit in Sri Lanka.”

Yafei, however, said it was too early for China to apply for Saarc membership. “This depends on the collective wish of the member-nations just as admitting India into SCO would depend on consensus of all the members,” he said, adding “we would like to see India as a member” of SCO.

According to Yafei, stronger ties with the Saarc nations have translated into a 45 per cent increase in trade volume for China. “But we also seek people to people exchanges,” he said.

In an apparent snub to western economies, he said that China did not want others to copy its development model. “We have through 30 years of economic reforms found a road to development suitable to Chinese conditions. Each country has to pursue its own model, and we will help wherever we can.”

On the probability of Asian Tigers like China, India and South East Asian countries teaming up for an economic bloc, he said: “We must strengthen our cooperation despite the diversities across Asia. This is the Asian century and it will be good for the whole world.”