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Six months later, Modi to meet SAARC leaders again in Kathmandu summit

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Six months later, Modi to meet SAARC leaders again in Kathmandu summit
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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who travels Tuesday to attend the 18th SAARC summit at Kathmandu, will be again meeting leaders of South Asian countries six months after he had invited them to his own swearing-in.

During the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit meeting, Modi would convey India's vision of harnessing the development potential of the region.

Modi had invited leaders of SAARC nations - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka - for his swearing-in as prime minister May 26 in what was seen as a major foreign policy initiative. Mauritius Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam had also attended his swearing-in.

The dates of the SAARC conference coincide with the Modi government completing six months in office.

"Exactly six months later he will be with all South Asian leaders," External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin told media persons here.

He said Modi will leave for Kathmandu Nov 25 to attend the summit and was keen to have "meaningful dialogue" with as many leaders as possible.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval are among those who will be in Kathmandu during the SAARC meeting, he said.

"India sees SAARC as a regional cooperative framework for promoting collaboration in economic, social and scientific fields to accelerate regional growth and development," Akbaruddin said.

He said the summit will start Nov 26 with policy statements by all leaders and will be followed by bilateral meetings.

"The prime minister will convey our vision of bilateral and regional cooperation in South Asia to harness development potential of the region," he said.

Akbaruddin said the leaders will go for a retreat Nov 27 morning at Dhulikhel and a plenary session will be held in the afternoon where a "Kathmandu declaration" will be adopted.

Modi is scheduled to return to the capital Nov 27 after conclusion of the summit meeting.

Akbaruddin said agreements had been recommended between SAARC countries in the fields of transport, energy and power and India stands ready to sign the agreements.

The summit will be preceded by a meeting of the council of ministers which will be attended by Sushma Swaraj.

Referring to Modi's proposed meeting with the Nepali leadership, he said it will be their second bilateral engagement in six months.

Akbaruddin said that "new ground was broken" during Modi's first visit to Nepal in August.

He said the two sides will discuss issues related to energy and defence and security cooperation.

He added that Modi has always emphasised that the neighbourhood was a major focus.

Akbaruddin said two visits of the prime minister to Nepal in quick succession reflected India's desire to increase the level of interaction between the two countries based on enhanced trust and shared values.

He said connectivity was an area of focus and there was discussion between the two countries on rail links, integrated check posts and roads.

Asked if terrorism will be among the issues discussed at the SAARC meeting, he said the leaders were free to discuss all issues during the retreat.

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