"It has to be talked with other SAARC countries," Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala said when asked if Nepal will push for China's permanent membership in the eight-member bloc. Asked about India's role in SAARC, he said, "India is an important country in the region and it should continue to play an important role."
    
Meanwhile, ahead of the SAARC Summit on Wednesday, China on Tuesday said it wants to "elevate its partnership" with the South Asian bloc. The developments come amid a debate stirred up by Chinese official media whether Beijing should raise its status in the eight-member grouping from an observer to that of a member.

"We value the role played by SAARC and stand ready to elevate our partnership with it so that together we can play a greater role and contribute constructively to the region," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing in Beijing.

She made the remarks while answering a question about official Chinese media reports about calls for elevating China's status from an observer to that of a member and whether Beijing looks to step up its role in SAARC.

SAARC is comprised of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Currently, Australia, China, the European Union, Iran, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mauritius, Myanmar and the US are observers to SAARC.

Hua said China has always attached great importance to developing sound relations with SAARC and has sent 14 delegations to attend SAARC summits since it got the observer status. A Chinese delegation headed by Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin would attend the two-day SAARC summit in Nepal starting from Wednesday.

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