Theme of this year's summit is “Building Bridges”
The official machinery in seven countries in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) region is busy working out details of bilateral meetings with India, even as they finalise their travel plans to the summit venue in The Maldives.
As it happened at a few SAARC meetings, the meetings on the sidelines between India and Pakistan, the two-nuclear powers in the region, have often overshadowed the modest agenda of SAARC.
While the meeting between Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan has evoked a lot of interest, Sri Lanka looks forward to the meeting of President Mahinda Rajapaksa with Manmohan Singh. The meeting comes in the background of a complete lack of progress on the question of a political solution to the aspirations of the Tamils in the Northern Province. It did not help that the main Tamil political formation that the government was holding talks with — the Tamil National Alliance — initially called off the talks, then came back, and is now in a process of seeking support from abroad for its cause.
TNA leaders, led by its leader R.Sampanthan, met a host of leaders and policy makers in the United States, Canada and in the United Nations over the past few weeks. This has not gone down well with Colombo, with some of the UPFA Ministers and leaders terming the move anti-national, and an effort to discredit Sri Lanka.
Even the moderate among those in the government have questioned the move, asking if it was right on the part of the TNA to pre-empt the report on the Eelam war IV and events there of, now in the final stages of preparation by the LLRC (Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission). The LLRC is expected to submit its report to President Rajapaksa by November 15.
The Manmohan-Rajapaksa meeting is expected to examine progress on sorting out issues confronting the relationship. The two leaders met on the sidelines of the U.N. summit, which essentially was built on the meeting of Foreign Secretaries last May in New Delhi.
All Heads of State will attend the two-day SAARC summit in Addu City, The Maldives on November 10 and 11. Most Heads of State, including Mr. Singh, will arrive at Addu City on November 9. The opening ceremony will be preceded by the Foreign Ministers' meeting on November 9. High-level representatives from Australia, Japan and China will participate as observers.
The theme of this year's summit is “Building Bridges” and the focus will be both on increasing physical connectivity as well as figurative political dialogue.