ADDU ATOLL - The 17th summit of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation kicks off today in Addu City, Maldives, with 'Building Bridges as its central theme. The conference will stretch over two days. However, as with all such conferences, much of the work has already been done behind the scenes. All participating delegations have been busy the last few days putting the finishing touches to the details of bilateral talks, which have already taken place at the Foreign Ministers level, while the Heads of State continued to meet late last night after their arrival, with further bilateral and trilateral meetings expected today to formalise the proposals by their FMs. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh landed at Gan Airport Addu, within fifteen minutes of each other. While they did not meet, all eyes are on these two countries, who as one journalist here put it, 'overshadow every conference they attend. Indeed, the general feeling here in the Maldives seems to be that the entirety of the press corps is in attendance to point their microphones and cameras at the Indian and Pakistani delegations. Appetites whetted by Most-Favoured Nation status news and the successful return of the Indian military helicopter, which strayed into Pakistani airspace, are now looking forward to a main course of some significant developments in the 'normalisation of relations between Pakistan and India. In fact, the last official meeting between Prime Ministers Gilani and Manmohan Singh was at the 16th SAARC summit, in Bhutan last year. While there is anticipation, there is also frustration between other SAARC countries at the impression that SAARC is just an excuse for Pakistan and India to meet on the sidelines, Over 50, official and private Indian media representatives are in Addu to cover the summit, compared to a paltry 13 from Pakistani media. As Addu City struggles to keep up with the furious pace of movement between SAARC delegations (this is the largest such event that the island has ever hosted), attention turns to the proposals finalised for discussion and endorsement in the official meetings starting today. The three proposals agreed upon and expected to be announced without a hitch, include a SAARC Seeds Bank to help member countries raise agricultural production, a joint mechanism to deal with natural calamities and the establishment of 'Indian Ocean Passenger and Cargo Ferry Network, a proposal for which is expected to be presented at the summit meeting and notified after approval of all leaders. The foreign ministers have also reportedly agreed to give more powers to the SAARC Secretariat. While there is some discussion of adding a 'Charter of Democracy to the SAARC charter, which was formally adopted on December 8, 1985, Chairperson of SAARC Council of Ministers Ahmed Naseem was reported as having denied that such a discussion took place. Diplomats propose that amendments in the charter, with the consent of all member states can be made, however the present charter does not contain the capacity and does not allow members to discuss matters of governance of member states. The SAARC founding members are Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Afghanistan joined the organisation in 2005. The list of observer states includes Australia, China, the European Union, Iran, Japan, Mauritius, Myanmar, South Korea and the United States. Turkey is expected to join this list after SAARC 17, with the Maldives backing its request to be recognised as an observer state. Meanwhile, homework for the meeting of the leaders of the two nuclear powers has already been completed. On Tuesday, Pakistans Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and his Indian counterpart met to discuss the meeting of the two prime ministers. Then, Foreign Ministers Hina Rabbani Khar and SM Krishna held talks. It was after this meeting that Mr Krishna announced to reporters that the trust deficit between the two countries was shrinking. The two foreign ministers repeated their practices mantra of promotion of regional cooperation from the SAARC platform, joint efforts to deal with the challenge of terrorism and confidence-building measures. Thereafter, the SAARC foreign ministers held a closed-door session. Held at the Equatorial Convention Centre, the meeting was presided over by Maldives Foreign Minister Ahmed Nasim. A report prepared by UNICEF on the rights of children of SAARC countries was presented at the meeting. Prime Minister Gilani, accompanied by Federal Ministers Rehman Malik, Babar Ghouri and Arbab Alamgir arrived Wednesday afternoon at Gan airport via G4 aircraft. The Prime Ministers plane, Pakistan One, is still out of commission after the almost-accident on the way back from Paris in May 2011. The President of the Maldives personally greeted all heads of state at Gan, where they were paid a guard of honour and escorted from the VIP Jetty to the Shangri-La resort, where the strictest security measures have been enforced.