ISLAMABAD - The multilateral South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) forum will once again feel the heat of bilateral tensions between Pakistan and India as the two-day SAARC Finance Ministers Conference begins here today.

The conference is basically aimed at discussing cooperation in different sectors of economy. The meeting is also expected to discuss the South Asia Free Trade Agreement and devise a mechanism for promotion of regional trade.

It will discuss ways and means to expanding trade and investment in the region and operation of SAARC Development Fund for infrastructure development.

The event will also review implementation of decisions taken during the seventh Finance Ministers meeting in Nepal.

India earlier had announced its Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will not travel to Pakistan for the conference amid the tensions between the two neighbours.

Only a few weeks back, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh travelled to Islamabad to attend the SAARC interior ministers’ conference but ended up in crossfire with his Pakistani counterpart Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan over Occupied Kashmir issue. Singh skipped the concluding session and returned to India, miffed over the alleged ill-treatment.

Indian economic affairs secretary Shaktikanta Das will lead his country’s delegation to SAARC conference. Earlier, India had contemplated sending junior finance minister Arjun Ram Meghwal for the event.

Officials said South Asia Free Trade Agreement and SAARC financial and banking system and investment opportunities in the region would also be discussed for the socio economic prosperity in the region besides discussing ways and means for the people of the member states.

SAARC Development Fund operations would be made more effective for the development of the region. The SDC was established in 2010 with a total capital of $1.5 billion while its paid up capital is about $300 million.

At the conclusion of the conference, SAARC finance ministers will also attend the SDC Council meeting jointly.