The two-day 18th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit began in Kathmandu on Wednesday with a call to undertake collective efforts by all the SAARC nations to combat terrorism in the region.
Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala inaugurated the SAARC Summit at the City Hall (Rashtriya Sabha Griha), Bhrikuti Mandap in Kathmandu.
"Deeper integration for peace and prosperity" has been chosen as the theme for the Summit.
This is the third time that Nepal is hosting SAARC Summit after January 2002 and November 1987. This Summit is the most important diplomatic gathering in Nepal after it became a secular republic in 2008.
Earlier, the heads of state and governments adopted the agenda of the 18th SAARC Summit conference presented by SAARC Chairperson President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.
The outgoing chairperson Abdulla Yameen handed over the gavel to the newly elected chairperson, Prime Minister Koirala who took over the chairmanship of SAARC amid applause for the good role that Maldives played in steering SAARC in the past three years. Following this, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bhutanese Prime Minister Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen addressed the summit conference.
The inaugural function was participated by nine representatives from SAARC observer countries - Australia, China, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Mauritius, Myanmar, USA and the EU.
"Terrorism is our common enemy and South Asia is the worst victim of it. Terrorism of all forms and manifestations infuriates extremism and religious fundamentalism and undermines peace and stability. So we should take measures collectively and unequivocally to combat terrorism," Nepalese Prime Minister said while addressing the inaugural session of the Summit.
Koirala sought cooperation of the SAARC nations to maintain peace and stability in his country.
"I also believe that if we can light up each other's towns and villages, we can build a brighter tomorrow for our region," Modi said at the two-day SAARC summit.
He noted, "India has huge trade surplus with SAARC countries. I believe that this is neither right nor sustainable."
"Let's all make our procedures simple, our facilities better, our standards common and our paper work less burdensome," he said.
Nawaz Sharif called on the SAARC member states to fight to resolve common problems like poverty, rather than fighting against each other.
He underscored Pakistan's high prioritisation of SAARC, adding that it epitomised the aspirations of the peoples of the region to advance peace, progress and prosperity.
The SAARC officials are likely to finalise three regional-level deals - SAARC Agreement on Motor Vehicles, SAARC Agreement on Railway Service and SAARC Framework Agreement on Energy Cooperation.
The concluding session of the Summit will be held at the City Hall today when Kathmandu Declaration will be declared and at least one regional agreement is expected to be signed.
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 on the excuse that they are not ready for implementation of an agreement.
The SAARC is an economic and geopolitical organisation of eight countries that are primarily located in South Asia.
SAARC was formed in 1985 with seven member states, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In 2007, Afghanistan became its eighth member state.
The regional political and economical cooperation in South Asia was first floated in 1980 and the first summit was held in Dhaka on December 8 in 1985, when the organisation was established by the governments of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.