The two-day 18th South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation summit will deliberate on a range of crucial issues such as defence and security, improving transport connectivity among the member states and ensuring greater flow of goods and services to boost trade and commerce.

Modi, after becoming Prime Minister, has been pushing for a stronger SAARC and there has been lot of enthusiasm among top diplomats of various countries about what he brings to the table to make the eight-nation grouping a regional powerhouse.

The theme of the summit is 'Deeper Regional Integration for Peace and Prosperity' and diplomats of a number of member countries said there have been expectations that the summit will have "breakthroughs" in some areas.

The leaders are also expected to deliberate on enhancing cooperation in the fields of education, health care, energy security and poverty alleviation.

Diplomats said there will be detailed discussion on removing hurdles for ensuring free flow of trade among the member countries.

Acting Foreign Secretary of Nepal Shanker Das Bairagi said strong commitment and decisive actions are required to fully and effectively implement South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement.

Prime Minister Modi leads a high-level delegation at the summit which includes External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh and a number of senior officials of various ministries.

India sees SAARC as a regional cooperative framework for promoting active collaboration in economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields so as to accelerate regional growth and development.

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