ADDU, November 11, 2011 (AFP) - China is seeking an active role in the eight-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, an official said Friday, in a move likely to be resisted by India.
The eight-member grouping wraps up a summit Friday in the Maldives marked by talks between arch-rivals India and Pakistan, whose leaders spoke of a "new chapter" in relations.
Maldivian officials said China, an observer along with the United States, Japan and the European Union, was expecting a higher profile as a "dialogue partner" in the light of Beijing's increased strategic interest in many South Asian states.
Hectic behind-the-scenes moves were under way over China's bid to elevate its status, diplomatic sources told AFP, adding that Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Sri Lanka appeared in favour.
Beijing was said to be unhappy being a mere observer and wanted a more active role as a "dialogue partner" because of its investment in the economies of many member states.
India would likely be suspicious of any greater Chinese role. New Delhi has watched with anxiety as Beijing has forged ties with many countries in the South Asia region, often by dispensing aid and soft loans for infrastructure.
Beijing established an embassy in the Maldivian capital Male just two days before SAARC leaders opened their 17th summit in the Addu atoll, the southernmost point in the archipelago on Thursday.
The summit is expected to endorse a draft agreement which calls for the "comprehensive review of all matters relating to SAARC's engagement with observers, including the question of dialogue partnership."