Maldives has seen nothing like Addu’s SAARC Summit: BBC

The Maldives has seen nothing before like the SAARC Summit in Addu, writes Charlie Haviland for BBC News.

“Every so often ordinary vehicles, including the buses that ferry the journalists around, have to pull into the tiny country lanes and wait while fleets of black Maldivian limousines carrying VVIPs pass by.

“They move back and forth along the road which, at 14km, is the longest in the entire Maldives archipelago, spanning four southerly islands via causeways.

A stringent security regime has been set up to protect the top officials.

“Appropriately, the tiny host nation has chosen “Building Bridges” as the theme for this 17th conference of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which was founded in 1985 grouping Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and admitted Afghanistan in 2005.

The chosen theme reflects a desire that the boundaries so evident in the region should start to dissolve and that transport, communication and trade linkages should thrive.

The historically tense relationship between India and Pakistan has been the focus of strong interest here.

Their two prime ministers, Manmohan Singh and Yusuf Raza Gilani, had warm words for each other after their bilateral talks on the summit’s sidelines at a luxury island resort, which took place in a luxury thatched hut above a white sandy shore.

The building of confidence is the theme of the moment, three years after the relationship plunged to rock-bottom after the Mumbai attacks in which 166 people were killed.

The Indian foreign secretary said the two neighbouring, nuclear-armed rivals would be moving to implement easier trade and travel measures, agreed in July.

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