South Asian, Southeast Asian leaders discuss closer ties

Leaders of seven South Asian and Southeast Asian nations are meeting in Nepal to discuss regional trade, economic cooperation, security and peace.

The two-day summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation began Thursday in Kathmandu, Nepal's capital. It groups Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

The leaders are to discuss greater economic cooperation and sign an agreement for regional electricity connectivity that will open up energy trade among their countries.

"Connectivity is a key enabler for robust regional cooperation. It is the very foundation, in which the edifice of economic integration can stand upright," Nepalese Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli said in opening the summit.

He said member nations need to increase investments in regional transport networks.

"Better connectivity of roads, railways, airways, waterways will unlock our full potential. It can promote meaningful cooperation in trade and investment, energy, tourism and technology transfer," he said.

The leaders are also expected to discuss crime, drug and human trafficking, and terrorism.

"Our region is not immune from dangers of terrorism, organized crimes, drugs trafficking, human trafficking, and money laundering, among others. We must remain united in defeating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations," Oli said.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bhutanese interim head of government Lyonpo Tshering Wangchuk, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Myanmar President Win Myint, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha are in taking part in the summit.