Indian PM Calls for Greater Regional Cooperation in South Asia

The Himalayan nation of Bhutan prepares for the 16th summit-level meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Thimphu, 24 Apr 2010

India's prime minister says the eight nations belonging to the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation have fallen short of the group's founding aspirations.

Speaking on the first day of the two-day SAARC summit in Bhutan, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for greater cooperation and trade between South Asian nations.

Mr. Singh warned that if the region does not become better connected and better educated, South Asia risks being marginalized and suffering from stagnation.

SAARC, founded in 1985, includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The eight member nations are expected to sign agreements on trade and climate change at the annual summit in Thimphu, Bhutan.

Critics have blamed the group's failures on the bitter rivalry between India and Pakistan. The prime ministers of both countries are scheduled to hold talks Thursday on the sidelines of the regional meeting.

Observer delegations from Australia, China, the European Union, the United States and several other countries are also attending the SAARC summit.

The April 28-29 summit is the largest international meeting the small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has ever held.