The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) comprises of eight nations in South Asia who have the common objectives (http://www.saarc-sec.org/#):
a) to promote the welfare of the peoples of SOUTH ASIA and to improve their quality of life;
b) to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region and to provide all individuals the opportunity to live in dignity and to realise their full potentials;
c) to promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of SOUTH ASIA;
d) to contribute to mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another’s problems;
e) to promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields;
f) to strengthen cooperation with other developing countries;
g) to strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums on matters of common interests; and
h) to cooperate with international and regional organisations with similar aims and purposes.
Following countries are members of SAARC
Apart from the eight participating counties, there are countries who are invited to the inaugural and closing ceremonies to mutually benefit SAARC, These countries, or the Observers are:
c) European Union
f) Republic of Korea
The once admitted, the cooperation with the observers is based on the Guidelines for Cooperation with Observers which was adopted by the Fifteenth SAARC Summit. Recently there has been a lot of interest in other countries to participate as SAARC is showing and one of the Observers who has been lobbying hard is China.
The South Asian subcontinent is very different from the western world from a political and regional perspective. There are territory disputes between the participating countries, they experience terrorism significantly more than Western world. This can be observed in objectives of SAARC too. It is not centered largely on trade by also serves to facilitate cooperation and development in other areas such as international matters etc.
China has proposed saying that they would like to extend support to eradicate terrorism and support security. China will enjoy more trade and growth along with a more pronounced foot print in South Asia. It is believed that SAARC will command more respect from EU, Nafta and APEC.
China’s geographic location qualifies it as South Asian and moreover, its participation will be key because of its economy. If China were included as a participating nation in SAARC, it would not only bring in more trade, expansion and growth of SAARC but it would also settle the imbalance in the number of observers and participating nations. It is the only bloc where observers are more than the participants.
India being the largest economy in the region, is said to dominate the SAARC. Thus Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka, among others, are in favor of China being made part of SAARC to counter India. Afraid of losing her traction, one can predict India to try to bloc China from becoming a participant in SAARC.
But things are not all that straight forward. India may not want China to enter for more reasons than trade. India has are territory disputes with China and Pakistan. China and Pakstan have good diplomatic relationships and are cooperative to each other.
It can be speculated that India may fear losing not only traction in the SAARC and having adverse effects on India’s trade but also being raise some security and strategic concerns.