India to focus on greater integration of South Asia

NEW DELHI, NOV 09 – India is all set to focus on regional integration, identity and connectivity at the upcoming 17th South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (Saarc) Summit, which is scheduled to kick off in the Maldives from Thursday.

In a statement prior to his departure to the Maldives, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, “India will work to promote greater integration as well as development of a South Asian identity at the forthcoming SAARC Summit”.

While welcoming the current theme of 17th SAARC Summit—building bridges, he expressed India’s readiness to work more for the improvement of bilateral, sub-regional and regional connectivity.

According to Singh, this summit is expected to sign four agreements namely, implementation of regional standards, multilateral agreement of recognition of conformity assessment, rapid response to natural disasters and establishment of Saarc seed bank.

India has also expected to move forward on the process of liberalisation of trade under the South Asian Free Trade Area Agreement (Safta). Since its entry into force in 2006, Safta is showing significant results. Trade under Safta is now at the mark of US$ 1.3 billion, which is more than double of what it used to be two years ago.

Indian PM Singh is also scheduled to meet with other South Asian heads of state and government on the margins of the Summit. A day after the conclusion of summit, Singh is scheduled to pay official bilateral visit to the island nation on 12th November. This is the first visit at prime ministerial level from India to the Maldives in nine years.

The summit is scheduled to be held on the Addu Atoll Island in the Southern hemisphere of Maldives on November 10 and 11. Mahesh Acharya from ekantipur

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