KATHMANDU (TIP): Prime Minister Narendra Modi today carried forward the engagement with leaders of SAARC nations where the central theme was the new energy he brought to the regional grouping through his vision for greater cooperation and connectivity among member states at the summit. On the sidelines of the SAARC Summit here, the Prime Minister had bilateral meetings with the Prime Minister of Bhutan Tshering Tobgay, Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani, President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa and the President of Maldives Abdulla Yameen. “A large part of the discussions centred around the statements made and the events at the SAARC Summit. During the bilateral meetings, various heads of government complimented the Prime Minister for his statement at the SAARC Summit and his forward-looking vision.

The Prime Minister was also complimented for his initiative of the SAARC satellite. Some countries also shared what they look forward to from such a satellite. The Prime Minister’s emphasis on solar energy was also greeted with enthusiasm during these meetings,” MEA spokesperson said later. Besides the discussions on SAARC, the PM extended an invitation to the new Afghan President Ghani, hearing the views of the latter on his vision for the country as also the cooperation expected from India.

Specific proposals for economic cooperation and transfer of technology figured during the talks. President Ghani reassured that Afghanistan would not do anything to harm Indian security in the country, as India continued to face threats to its missions in there. The National Security Adviser will travel to Sri Lanka and Maldives next month. Maritime security shall be on the agenda during these visits. Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives reiterated their invitations to the Prime Minister and he, in turn, emphasised that engagement with SAARC nations was a priority with him.

The Prime Minister invited Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay to visit India in January and also be part of the Vibrant Gujarat summit. The Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh had a detailed exchange of views on matters relating to security and terrorism which impact both countries. The Burdwan blast which is currently being investigated by the National Investigation Agency and has linkages in Bangladesh also came up during the discussions.

Modi mentions Mumbai attack, urges member nations to combat terrorism

Addressing the Saarc summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai, describing the ambush that left 166 people dead and 304 injured as a ‘horror’. “Today, as we remember the horror of the terror attack in Mumbai in 2008, we feel the endless pain of lost lives,” he said, urging South Asian countries to work and combat terrorism together.

“Let us work together to fulfil the pledge we have taken to combat terrorism and transnational crimes,” he added, on the sixth anniversary of the Mumbai terror attack. His remarks came close on the heels of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif saying his country preferred a dispute-free South Asia. Sharif also said instead of fighting each other, “we must jointly fight poverty, malnutrition”