New Delhi: India expects to move forward on the process of liberalisation of trade under the SAFTA and will work to promote greater integration and development of a South Asian identity at the forthcoming SAARC Summit beginning in the Maldives on Thursday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Wednesday.

In his departure statement, he also said that the SAARC countries expect to sign agreements on Implementation of Regional Standards (IRS), multilateral arrangement on Recognition of Conformity Assessment, rapid response to natural disasters and establishment of SAARC Seed Bank.

While the two-day Summit starts Thursday, the Prime Minister is expected to meet his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani on the margins of the summit on Friday.

Singh said, SAARC has established itself as the leading mechanism for regional cooperation in South Asia.

It has enabled enhanced cooperation within the region in a wide range of areas such as trade, connectivity, poverty alleviation, food security, women and child development, combating organised crime and terrorism, among others.

It has also created new institutions to promote regional integration such as the South Asian Regional Standards Organisation, South Asian Development Fund and South Asian University which is based in New Delhi.

Noting that the theme of the Summit is 'Building Bridges', he said India welcomes this focus, it has always emphasised the importance of enhance connectivity for the socio-economic development of the South Asian region.

"We have undertaken several initiatives to improve connectivity on a bilateral, sub-regional and regional basis, and are willing to do much more. The theme is also in consonance with the observance of the current decade as the 'SAARC Decade of Intra Regional Connectivity'", Singh said.

The Prime Minister said on the margins of the Summit he look forward to the opportunity of holding bilateral discussions with other South Asian heads of State and government who will be participating in the Summit.

He said, his bilateral visit to Male after the SAARC Summit will be the first Prime ministerial visit from India in nine years during which period the relations have been significantly transformed.

"I look forward to holding in depth discussions with President Nasheed on all aspects of our relations and to the honour of addressing the People's Majlis (Parliament) in Male. We also expect to conclude concrete agreements to enhance our cooperation in both traditional as well as new areas," he said.