India's foreign minister is predicting that South Asian leaders will achieve significant goals during their two-day summit in Sri Lanka that begins Saturday.
Pranab Mukherjee says members are set to adopt a treaty aimed at combating cross-border terrorism, during the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Colombo. He said they also plan to launch a 300 million-dollar development fund and a South Asian University. Trade, food security and energy shortfalls also are on the agenda. But Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi Friday criticized the agenda, saying it falls far short of what the group should be doing.
In other news, the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers are set to meet on the sidelines of the summit. It will be the highest-level meeting between the two countries in 15 months. Relations between the nuclear-armed neighbors have been strained by clashes on their disputed Kashmiri border and a bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul in which 41 people died.
SAARC member nations include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Iran will participate at the summit for the first time. Iran was admitted as an observer at the last summit in New Delhi.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki will join the ministers or representatives of the other five observers, including the United States, European Union, China, Japan and South Korea.