PM leaves for Colombo tomorrow to attend 15th SAARC Summit

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New Delhi, Jul 31 (UNI) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh leaves here for Colombo tomorrow morning to attend the 15th SAARC Summit on August 2-3 for brain-storming sessions on issues including terrorism, development and food and energy security in the region. The Summit of the Heads of State/Government of eight South Asian nations, being held under the shadow of a spurt in terrorist activities in the region, is likely to be dominated by discussions on collective action against the scourge.

''South Asia is vulnerable to terrorism and collective action is needed to curb the scourge,'' External Affairs Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said today.

Negotiations have already been initiated on an agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters which are likely to be finalised during the Summit.

There is also a possibility that some documents would be signed.

India, which is the current Chairman of the SAARC, will hand over the Chair to Sri Lanka on the inaugural day of the Summit.

The Prime Minister will have a bilateral meeting with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse tomorrow after arrival in the Sri Lankan capital. Later in the evening, he will meet the Indian community there.

Asked whether the Prime Minister would raise the issue of attacks on Indian fishermen by Sri Lankan navy, the spokesman said the issue has been raised by India several times in the past.

He said a bilateral meeting will take place between the leaders of the two countries on the first day. He, however, did not specify whether the issue would be discussed.

The government has been under pressure back home to get back the Katchateevu island from Sri Lanka and scrap the 1983 agreement that recognised the island as a part of that country.

The two-day Summit which will be inaugurated on August two, will also discuss an increase in the number of Observers. Presently, the US, EU, China, Japan, Republic of Korea and Iran have Observer status in the SAARC. Australia and Myanmar have applied for Observer status.


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