Chinese media stirs up debate over China becoming SAARC member

Ahead of the SAARC summit in Nepal this week, China's official media on Sunday stirred up a debate about the country's interest to elevate its role in the eight member grouping from an observer to that of an active member to expand its influence in South Asia.

Beijing: Ahead of the SAARC summit in Nepal this week, China's official media on Sunday stirred up a debate about the country's interest to elevate its role in the eight member grouping from an observer to that of an active member to expand its influence in South Asia.

As the 18th South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit gets underway in Kathmandu, debate over China's role whether to restrict it to its observer status or allow it to play a more influential role intensifies, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

"Nepal's politicians and foreign affairs experts almost unanimously propose that China be given a more influential role to play in the SAARC. They even say that it is an insult to keep restricting China to its observer status", the report said.

The SAARC summit is due to be held in Nepal from November 26-27.

Nepal's Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey was quoted as saying by the state media that Nepal will have no problems if all the SAARC countries agree to turn China into a member state.

Nevertheless, some politicians and experts argued that it is yet not right time for inviting China as a member state in the SAARC.

Bhesh Bahadur Thapa, Nepal's foreign affairs expert and former foreign minister, said it would be premature to invite China as a SAARC member.

"Time (for inviting China as a member state) may come but it is too early to talk of this issue," he said, the report said.

Representatives from the eight member countries, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, along with observers from nine other nations will take part in the meet.