From K J M Varma Beijing, Nov 25: On the eve of the SAARC summit in Nepal, China today said it wants to "elevate its partnership" with the South Asian bloc amid a debate in the official media here on enhancing China's role in the eight member grouping from an observer to that of an active member.
"We value the role played by SAARC and stand ready to elevate our partnership with it so that together we can play a greater role and contribute constructively to the region", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying told a media briefing here.
She was answering a question about the official media reports about calls for elevating China's status from an Observer to that of a Member and whether Beijing looks to step up its role in South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
SAARC is comprised of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Currently, Australia, China, the European Union, Iran, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mauritius, Myanmar and the US are observers to SAARC. As it expanded its influence in the South Asian region firming up ties with countries in the region specially Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Maldives with billions of dollars worth of aid and project assistance, China was vocal about upgrading its status as a member.
China's state run Xinhua news agency had stirred up a debate about whether the country should elevate its role in the eight-member group by quoting different politicians from Nepal. SAARC's economic and political organisation now needs to redefine the nine observers' role and to expand in the future, a Xinhua report on the grouping said. Hua said China has always attached great importance to developing sound relations with SAARC and sent 14 delegation at attend the SAARC summits since it got the Observer status.
A Chinese delegation headed by Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin would attend the two day SAARC summit in Nepal to be held on November 26-27. Wishing the summit a success, Hua said "we keep deepening our cooperation in various fields. We will continue to cooperate with SAARC countries on the basis of peace, stability and prosperity".