The 14th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation opened in New Delhi on Tuesday with Afghanistan being formally inducted as the 8th member of the regional grouping.
In his inaugural address, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh observed that South Asia was in the midst of an 'unprecedented' economic and political transformation and governments of the region were working together to address the issues.
"The political transformation is painful. Each one of us has to work out for ourselves and within our countries and between our governments," Dr Singh said.
Besides announcing unilateral liberalisation of visa policy for students, teachers, researchers, journalists and patients, Dr Singh also informed delegates about duty-free access to Indian markets to South Asian neighbours without insisting on reciprocity.
Dr Singh also said India was ready to further reduce the list of sensitive items for trade.
Turning to terrorism afflicting the region, Dr Singh said, "We should implement in a meaningful and sincere manner the commitment and pledge made to root out terrorism to create an atmosphere for our endeavour to succeed."
Image: Representatives of the SAARC countries (from l to r): Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Bangladeshi Chief Advisor Fakhrudeen Ahmed, Bhutanese Prime Minister Khandu Wangchuk, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom , Nepalese Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse during the opening session of the 14th SAARC Summit in New Delhi on Tuesday.
Photograph: Raveendran/AFP/Getty Images
Also see: The transformation of SAARC