New Delhi, Nov 9(ANI): The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, has said that India will be promoting regional integration during the 17th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit which kick starts on Thursday in Maldives.
In his statement issued while departing for Maldives, Dr. Singh said: "India will work to promote greater integration as well as the development of a South Asian identity at the forthcoming summit."
Agreements on implementation of regional standards, multilateral arrangements on recognition of conformity assessment, rapid response to natural disasters and establishment of a SAARC seed bank are also expected to be signed during the two-day summit in which eight head of states from South Asian nations will be participating.
India also expects measures on liberalizing trade during the meet.
"At SAARC we expect to move forward on the process of liberalization of trade under South Asian free trade area agreement," the Prime Minister said.
Dr. Singh will also be holding bilateral meetings with the SAARC heads of states.
He will be meeting his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani on Thursday at Gann Island in Maldives.
The 17th SAARC Summit takes place in Addu City, in the southern atolls of the Maldives, situated in the Southern Hemisphere. This is the third time that Maldives is hosting a SAARC Summit; it did so previously in 1997 (Ninth Summit) and 1990 (Fifth Summit).
The SAARC was created in 1985 in Dhaka with seven members, as an expression of the region's collective decision to evolve a regional cooperative framework. With Afghanistan joining the association in 2007, there are now eight member countries in SAARC namely Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The two-day summit is also expected to stress the need to have people-to-people contact in the region as one fifth of the world population lives in the SAARC region. By Naveen Kapoor (ANI)