Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)– Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina left Dhaka on Wednesday for the Maldives to attend the 17th Summit of the Heads of Government or State of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries.

A chartered flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines carrying the prime minister and members of her entourage took off from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in the capital at 12 noon.

Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, Agriculture Minister Begum Matia Chowdhury, Information Minister Abul Kalam Azad, Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister GM Quader, PM’s Adviser HT Imam and Awami League Joint General Secretary Mahbub-ul-Alam Hanif were present at the airport to see her off.

Besides, Cabinet Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, chiefs of Bangladesh Navy and Bangladesh Air Force, dean of the diplomatic corps and high civil and military officials were also present.

The two-day SAARC Summit kicks off on Thursday in Addu City, about 500 kilometers off the capital Male, the second largest populous island of the Maldives with 30,000 people.

The theme of the conference has been chosen by the host country leaders “Building Bridges”, which gives emphasis on physical connectivity as well as figurative political dialogue among the nations to narrow down differences.

US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake and Ambassador-level officials from China, Iran and Japan will also participate in the summit as observers.

Prior to the inaugural of the SAARC Summit, Sheikh Hasina will hold bilateral meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at Dr Ali’s Restaurant of Shangri-La’s in Villingili Resort on November 10.

The summit will kick off at 2:30pm at the main conference hall of the Hithadhoo Convention Centre.

In the evening, Sheikh Hasina will attend the state banquet to be hosted by the Maldives President and the first lady at Hulhumeedhoo state banquet hall.

On the second day of the summit, she will join Summit Retreat in the morning where the leaders will have opportunities for informal talks to narrow down their differences on various bilateral and regional issues. In the afternoon, she will attend the concluding session of the summit.

The prime minister is expected to return home on November 12.

BBN/SSR/AD-09Nov11-5:04 pm (BST)