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4 SAARC nations favour greater interaction with observers

PTI 26 Nov 2014, 23:53:30 PM IST

Kathmandu:  Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives today favoured greater interaction with the observer nations in SAARC even as China sought an “elevated” role for it in the eight-nation grouping.

In their addresses at the 18th SAARC summit, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen said there was a need for deeper engagement with the observers.

“I wish to emphasise the importance of the role of the SAARC observers. SAARC can benefit from its interaction with them. The gap between the promise of SAARC and reality of its accomplishments needs to be bridged. We should build on convergences, minimise divergences and most of all, seek to augment complementarities for the greater good of the people of this region,” Sharif said.

During the Summit, China sought an “elevated” role in SAARC. Disagreeing with the idea of enhancing the role of observers or adding more members in the SAARC at this point of time, India has said the grouping needs to first deepen cooperation.

“We first need to deepen cooperation within SAARC, we need to enhance cooperation with observers, and increase interactions,” MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin had said yesterday.

In the Council of SAARC Ministers' meet yesterday, Pakistan reportedly made a suggestion and references during the deliberations that there should be greater role of observers and also restriction on new members should be lifted.

India said there were references made for enhanced role of observers and lifting restriction, but these are policy statements and are declaratory in nature and did not get much support of majority of SAARC members at the conclusion of the meet.

China, an observer in the grouping, has been pushing for getting a permanent membership of SAARC.  Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala had yesterday said that the member nations should discuss the issue.  The SAARC  member countries are India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

The observers are Australia, China, the European Union, Iran, Japan, Mauritius, Myanmar, South Korea and the United States.