Kathmandu:Kathmandu: The 18th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit kicked off in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu on Wednesday morning, with the theme “Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity”.
Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala inaugurated the two-day regional jamboree at the City Hall, when the Maldives handed over SAARC chairmanship to Nepal.
This is the third time that Nepal is hosting SAARC Summit after January 2002 and November 1987.
The Summit is the most important diplomatic gathering in Nepal after it became a secular republic in 2008.
In the morning, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bhutanese PM Tshering Tobgay, Indian PM Narendra Modi, Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa were received by Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey.
The eight leaders delivered their speeches in the inaugural session of the Summit.
Nine observers from China, US, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Mauritius, Myanmar, Iran and European Union also attended the Summit.
The eight leaders will also meet privately during a retreat at a resort in Dhulikhel on Thursday.
The concluding session of the Summit will be held at the City Hall on November 27, when Kathmandu Declaration will be issued and some regional agreements signed.
The Summit is also scheduled to consider reports of the meeting of SAARC Council of Ministers and those of other ministerial meetings held earlier, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated.
The Summit is likely to finalise three regional-level deals -- SAARC agreement on motor vehicles, SAARC Agreement on Railway Service and SAARC Framework Agreement on Energy Cooperation.
Nepalese Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey said negotiation regarding the deals were on.
The motor vehicles agreement will pave the way for regular vehicles to ply on the roads of member states on a reciprocal basis, while the railway deal will open avenues for railway connectivity in the region.
The proposed Energy Cooperation agreement aims at trading electricity from one country to another and erecting trans-boundary power grids.
Pakistan is yet to finalise all procedures at home for the energy deal.