Diplomatic Correspondent

China ready to discuss cooperative mechanism to alleviate poverty

NEW DELHI: The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation has a bright future if it continued with institutional development, accelerated cooperation and greater opening, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said at the 14th SAARC summit on Tuesday.

Mr. Li said that as South Asia's largest neighbour, China, a SAARC observer, hoped that all countries in the region would live in harmony and the regional grouping would play a "bigger role" in regional and world affairs.

Appreciating SAARC's decision to accept China as observer, the Foreign Minister said: "Good political atmosphere, close geographical location and popular support will greatly boost China-SAARC cooperation, which serves our common interest and peace, stability and development of the region."

Mr. Li said China was ready to discuss with SAARC the establishment of a cooperative mechanism to alleviate poverty and carry out a comparative study on poverty reduction models. "It [Beijing] is also ready to hold a workshop this year for officials from SAARC countries on poverty alleviation policy and practices."

China was also prepared to intensify cooperation with SAARC countries in infrastructure development and energy on the basis of equality and mutual benefit and encouraged Chinese enterprises to make investments in South Asia.

"China proposes to institutionalise the China-South Asia Business Forum so that it can serve as a platform for discussions on economic cooperation and trade," the Foreign Minister said.

According to him, South Asian countries were committed to peace and development; the region was enjoying sustained economic growth and good progress was being made in achieving regional cooperation.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso, speaking in his capacity as observer, said Tokyo decided to pledge an additional $7 million for the existing SAARC-Japan special fund.

"I am very glad that Japan is now part of the SAARC as an observer nation," he said, committing Japan to act as the "running mate" of the South Asian region.

In Nepal and Bhutan, Mr. Aso said, Japan would continue to support "their" democratisation, while in Afghanistan, Tokyo had worked to rebuild that war-ravaged nation.

"I now feel ... present at the creation of a historic drama. Remember, that 300 years ago, South Asia alone produced one-fourth of the world output. What is unfolding is not a new rise, but a great comeback of the region ... " the Japanese Foreign Minister stated.

"Here is my pledge: the Government of Japan shall cooperate with the SAARC to achieve better regional connectivity and is keen on supporting your priority projects," he added.

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