China sees “historic opportunities” in South Asia

NEW DELHI, April 3, 2007 (AFP) – China declared Tuesday that South Asia was on the brink of “historic opportunities” and sought stepped up cooperation with the region.

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing made the statement as he welcomed Beijing’s new observer status at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

“We all belong to the developing world, are experiencing fast growth and facing historic opportunities of development,” the minister said at the inaugural session of a two-day meeting in the Indian capital.

China was ready to “join hands in energy and infrastructure sectors” with the eight nation group made up of Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Beijing would encourage “Chinese enterprises (to move) into South Asia,” Li said.

“As close neighbours, China and SAARC countries enjoy deep traditional friendship,” Li added.

For the first time, China, Japan, South Korea, the United States and the European Union were invited as observers to a SAARC summit.

Analysts have said the attractive pull of the Chinese market could help drag the rest of the region into a t