New Delhi: India expects to move forward on
the process of liberalisation of trade under the SAFTA and
will work to promote greater integration and development of a
South Asian identity at the forthcoming SAARC Summit beginning
in the Maldives tomorrow, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said
In his departure statement, he also said that the SAARC
countries expect to sign agreements on Implementation of
Regional Standards (IRS), multilateral arrangement on
Recognition of Conformity Assessment, rapid response to
natural disasters and establishment of SAARC Seed Bank.
While the two-day Summit starts tomorrow, the Prime
Minister is expected to meet his Pakistani counter Yousuf Raza
Gilani on the margins of the summit on Friday.
Singh said, SAARC has established itself as the leading
mechanism for regional cooperation in South Asia.
It has enabled enhanced cooperation within the region in
a wide range of areas such as trade, connectivity, poverty
alleviation, food security, women and child development,
combating organised crime and terrorism, among others.
It has also created new institutions to promote regional
integration such as the South Asian Regional Standards
Organisation, South Asian Development Fund and South Asian
University which is based in New Delhi.
Noting that the theme of the Summit is `Building
Bridges`, he said India welcomes this focus, it has always
emphasised the importance of enhance connectivity for the
socio-economic development of the South Asian region.
"We have undertaken several initiatives to improve
connectivity on a bilateral, sub-regional and regional basis,
and are willing to do much more. The theme is also in
consonance with the observance of the current decade as the
`SAARC Decade of Intra Regional Connectivity`", Singh said.
The Prime Minister said on the margins of the Summit he
look forward to the opportunity of holding bilateral
discussions with other South Asian heads of State and
government who will be participating in the Summit.
He said, his bilateral visit to Male after the SAARC
Summit will be the first Prime ministerial visit from India in
nine years during which period the relations have been
"I look forward to holding indepth discussions with
President Nasheed on all aspects of our relations and to the
honour of addressing the People`s Majlis (Parliament) in Male.
We also expect to conclude concrete agreements to enhance our
cooperation in both traditional as well as new areas," he