Kathmandu: Amid China's push to elevate its role in SAARC from an observer to that of an active member, the eight countries regional cooperation body on Monday decided to have "meaningful engagements" with all nine observer states.
Top diplomats of the eight SAARC nations, including Foreign Secretary Sujata Singh, also decided to improve connectivity, increase agricultural productivity and address the adverse effects of climate change at the end of the two-day meeting of SAARC Standing Committee here today.
"The committee has decided to have meaningful engagements with observers in priority areas identified by the member states," Nepal's acting foreign secretary Shanker Das Bairagi said.
The priority areas include communications, infrastructure, tourism and public health, Bairagi said.
China's official media had yesterday debated whether China should restrict its role in SAARC to observer status or play a more influential role and look forward to becoming an active member of the regional cooperation body.
"It is an insult to keep restricting China to its observer status," state-run Xinhua news agency had quoted Nepali politicians and diplomats as saying.
Bairagi also indicated that combating challenges of terrorism is also likely to be discussed during the summit.
"As terrorism in all its forms and manifestations has remained a formidable challenge for our region, coordinated and concerted efforts are required to tackle the situation," he said.
The diplomats also discussed upgradation of the Laboratory of SAARC Tuberculosis and HIV-AIDS Centre located in Bhaktapur near here to a Supranational Laboratory, according to a press release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The matter of relocating the SAARC Secretariat also came up during the deliberations. Nepal is also considering shifting the SAARC Secretariat outside the city where more space is available, a foreign ministry official said.
The committee also deliberated on matters relating to setting up of a pre-determined time-frame for SAARC Summits, delegating some of the mandates of the Standing Committee to the Programming Committee, and agreed to elevate the status of Programming Committee to a Charter Body.
The 18th SAARC summit will start here on November 26 where heads of states of all eight member states are due to take part.
SAARC has 9 observers--Australia, China, European Union, Iran, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mauritius, Myanmar and USA.
Foreign and external affairs ministers of member states will have a day-long meeting tomorrow to discuss the recommendations of the standing committee and prepare a report to be presented during the Summit being held on November 26-27.