Eight South Asian nations on Wednesday accepted Iran as an observer to their economic grouping - the same status accorded to the United States, China, the European Union, South Korea and Japan. "The heads of state or government welcomed the Islamic Republic of Iran to be associated as observer to SAARC," said a declaration adopted by member-states of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and the Maldives comprise the SAARC which was set up in 1985 to promote economic cooperation. Iran applied for observer status ahead of the two-day SAARC summit which ended on Wednesday. South Asian nations are apparently seeking access to Central Asia through Iran. Iran is looking to South Asian nations for several reasons, said S. D. Muni, a professor of South Asian studies at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University. "It is feeling isolated because it is not part of the Gulf Cooperation Council and facing pressure from the United States on the nuclear issue," he said. Also, Iran needs India as a market for its energy resources, particularly gas, Muni told The Associated Press. The U.S. has opposed to plans to build a natural gas pipeline from Iran to India through Pakistan. "If Pakistan gets connected to India through a gas pipeline, it would have greater economic interaction with its longtime rival, which in turn would lead to integration of South Asia," Muni said.