The stage is now set for the opening of the two-day SAARC summit, which expects to move forward on liberalising trade under its free trade agreement and ink new deals on regional standards, rapid response to national disasters and establishment of a seed bank.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh leads a high-level Indian delegation to the 17th SAARC summit of the 8-nation grouping that is meeting in Maldives for the third time but what is unique about this meeting is that it is taking place in Addu City, the southern most point of the island nation, lying south of the Equator in Seenu Atoll.
External affairs minister S M Krishna, national security adviser Shivshankar Menon and foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai are part of the Indian delegation to the summit, which will be attended among others by Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse and Nepal Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai.
With 'Building Bridges' as the theme in the summit, the SAARC is working to intensify regional integration and develop a South Asian identity.
Implementing the provisions of the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) remains central to creating a more prosperous region.
Prime Minister Singh said as much in his departure statement in Delhi when he expressed the hope that the SAARC nations expect to move forward on the process of liberalisation of trade under SAFTA.
"We also expect to sign agreements on Implementation of Regional Standards, Multilateral Arrangement on Recognition of Conformity Assessment, Rapid Response to Natural Disasters and establishment of a Seed Bank," he said.