Pakistan on Tuesday made a “policy statement”, arguing in favour of elevating the role of observers in SAARC, Indian officials said on Tuesday. This comes in the wake of China making an aggressive push for membership in SAARC through Nepal.
China is an observer in SAARC, and wants to become a member of the regional grouping.
However, there was “no discussion” on the subject, as it was only a policy statement by Pakistan. MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said, “We need to first deepen our cooperation within SAARC… there are so many shortcomings and we need to tackle them.” He said the “observers are peripheral… we will come to them at a later stage.”
This was a clear signal that India was not enthusiastic about China’s interest for full-fledged membership of SAARC.
What surprised New Delhi was that China had lined up top Nepalese politicians and diplomats to push for its membership into the organisation, as first reported by The Indian Express Tuesday.
While China’s Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhen Min is leading the delegation to SAARC, interviews and quotes from at least three Nepal cabinet ministers and two former foreign ministers backing Beijing’s case have appeared in a 12-page special edition for the 18th SAARC summit, published by the Xinhua news agency.
Those who were pitching for China’s membership or an elevated role in SAARC included Nepal Finance minister Ram Sharan Mahat, Nepal’s Foreign minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey and minister for Information and Communications, Minendra Rijal.