Addressing the Saarc summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai, describing the ambush that left 166 people dead and 304 injured as a 'horror'.
"Today, as we remember the horror of the terror attack in Mumbai in 2008, we feel the endless pain of lost lives," he said, urging South Asian countries to work and combat terrorism together.
"Let us work together to fulfil the pledge we have taken to combat terrorism and trans-national crimes," he added, on the sixth anniversary of the Mumbai terror attack.
His remarks came close on the heels of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif saying his country preferred a dispute-free South Asia. Sharif also said instead of fighting each other, "we must jointly fight poverty, malnutrition".
Sharif's speech is being viewed as an effort to send a message to India, which has suspended talks with the nuclear-armed neighbour after Pakistan reached out to Kashmiri separatists.
With both leaders striking the 'cooperation' note, the question doing the rounds on the sidelines of the Saarc summit is: will Modi and Sharif hold talks and break the ice?
Modi also urged all member nations of Saarc to join hands and remove the air of cynicism and skepticism that surrounds the three-decade old regional body.
Speaking at the inaugural session of the 18th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Kathmandu, he sought removal of barriers of boundaries to unshackle progress.
"Samay ki maang hai ke hum pass pass bhi hain, lekin saath saath bhi ho (The need of the hour is that we don't just remain near each other, but be together as well)," Modi said in a brief shift to Hindi during his 24-minute speech in English.
The Prime Minister unveiled his vision of better connectivity and infrastructure, more trade, relaxed visa regimes and use of space technology for mutual benefit
"Nowhere in the world are collective efforts more urgent than South Asia and nowhere else it is so modest. At Saarc we have failed to move with the speed that our people expect and want."
He cited the example of how goods from one Punjab (in India) have to take a journey that is 11 times longer through other nations to reach the other Punjab (in Pakistan) at a cost four times higher.
"Indian companies are investing billions abroad but less than 1% flow into our region. It is still harder to travel within our region and more expensive to speak to each other," Modi stated.
He highlighted how India had given five Saarc nations duty-free access to 99.7% of their goods and provided assistance of nearly $ 8 billion to the region in over a decade.
A Saarc business traveller card and quick visa approvals for those seeking medical attention in India are some steps proposed to promote business and help movement.
He cited the examples of how India had forged individual partnerships with Saarc member states on trade, energy and rail and road connectivity and called for collective agreements in those sectors.
Modi promised the gift of a satellite to Saarc by 2016 which will help member nations in education, telemedicine, weather forecasting and disasters and resource management.
"I have great belief in our boundless potential and there is much to learn from each other -- even more to do together. I know India has to take a lead and we will do our bit. I hope each of you will, too."
Setting up a special purpose facility in India to finance infrastructure projects in the region and better facilities, simple procedures, common standards and less burdensome paperwork to speed up trade are other issues he spoke on.
Here are the highlights of Modi's speech. Also, read on to know what's happening at the summit.
Let us turn South Asia of flowering hope into a rich field of peace and prosperity.
When we join our hands and walk in steps, the path becomes easier, the journey quicker and the destination closer.
There is a new awakening in South Asia, a new recognition of inter-linked destinies and a new belief in shared opportunities.
Let us work together to fulfil the pledge we have taken to combat terrorism and trans-national crimes.
Today, as we remember the horror of the terror attack in Mumbai in 2008, we feel the endless pain of lost lives.
# As neighbours we should be available for each other in good and bad times.
# If we are sensitive to each other's security then we will advance stability in our region.
# For those coming for medical treatment, India will provide immediate medical visa for the patient and an attendant.
# India has huge trade surplus with Saarc countries. I believe that this is neither right nor sustainable.
# When we speak of Saarc, we usually hear two reactions - cynicism and skepticism.
# I stepped into office with greetings of the entire world, but what moved me was your personal presence.
# At Saarc, we have failed to move with the speed that our people expect and want.
# A good neighbourhood is universal aspiration, nowhere in world is collective efforts urgent than in South Asia.
# The future I wish for India is the future I wish for our entire South Asia.
# Ours is a region of thriving democracy.
# There is much to learn from each other, even more - to do together.
# Infrastructure is my greatest priority in India
PM Modi: we plan to launch SAARC satellite on SAARC day in 2016 pic.twitter.com/lHRM22soVJ— ANI (@ANI_news) November 26, 2014
What other leaders said
# Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani criticised state actors for using non-state elements as political tools and providing them with safe haven.
# Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa described terrorism as fundamental challenge both regionally and internationally.
Addressing the Saarc summit, Sharif said:
# I congratulate the government of Nepal for successfully holding the Saarc summit.
# From the people of Pakistan to people of Saarc region, I bring warm greetings and sentiments of goodwill and friendship.
# The theme selected for 18th Saarc summit is very important.
# The theme is most appropriate and reflects our common desire in reaching out to get a win-win situation.
# The gap between the promise of Saarc and its accomplishments need to be built for the greater good of the people.
# My vision is for South Asia is that instead of fighting each other, we must jointly fight poverty, malnutrition.
# We are committed to dispute-free South Asia, need bonds of trust to solve our problems.
Sharif's speech, especially his stress on 'jointly fighting' social evils, is being viewed as a message to India.
Speculation over Modi-Sharif meeting
The big question, on the sidelines of each Saarc summit, is of course whether Modi and Sharif will meet. Coming after a season of chill -- where India called off foreign secretary level talks and the international border and LOC saw some heavy cross border shelling -- this assumes salience.
It has been increasingly clear that Modi and Sharif will meet, the question is what will be the nature of the meeting.
Will it merely be a handshake at the summit venue? Will it a pull aside at the informal retreat in Dhulikhel for a brief chat? Or will it be a full bilateral meeting to resume the conversation they left off in May?
According to Modi's schedule, he will hold talks with all Saarc leaders, barring Sharif.
Regional superpower India is seeking to boost trade and reinvigorate ties in its backyard at Saarc summit, but analysts say little can be achieved while its bitter rivalry with Pakistan persists.
But the mistrust between India and Pakistan -- widely seen as the main obstacle to greater South Asian integration -- is unlikely to be resolved so easily.
The region's first summit in three years follows some of the worst cross-border violence in the disputed region of Kashmir in a decade, and comes as NATO-led troops prepare to pull out of Afghanistan, intensifying the India-Pakistan rivalry for influence there.
"Saarc's main problem is that Saarc is basically about India and Pakistan, with the Afghanistan dimension thrown in now," said Sujeev Shakya, chairman of the Nepal Economic Forum.
"It would be far better if Saarc were to break down its structure and a trade grouping were to emerge between Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Myanmar," he told AFP, adding such a grouping would "accomplish more on the trade front".
Saarc summit begins
The 18th Saarc summit commenced in Kathmandu Wednesday morning.
The leaders of the eight South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) countries are meeting for the first time since the election of a new Indian government that is eager to avoid losing influence to rival power China.
As chair of Saarc, Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul opened the summit and handed over the responsibility of the chair of the regional bloc to Nepal's Prime Minister Sushil Koirala.
This is the third time Nepal is organising the summit -- first in 1987 and then again in 2002.
Ahead of the summit, three meetings at foreign ministers', foreign secretaries' and joint secretaries' levels decided to scrap three Saarc regional centres and merge four others into one.
It also decided to improve agricultural productivity, food and nutritional security, enhance cooperation on trade, economy, finance, investment, energy, connectivity, health, education and agriculture and bring about project-based engagement of the Saarc observers.
It decided to accord body status to the South Asian Women's Development Forum and upgrade the Saarc Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS Centre laboratory to a Supranational Laboratory as the agenda for the summit.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul and Bhutanese Prime Minister Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay are attending the summit.
(With PTI, IANS and AFP inputs)
Watch:Modi, Sharif ignore each other