SAARC South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation

Introduction

  1. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is the regional intergovernmental organization of the countries of South Asia. 
  2. The 8 member states are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. 
  3. SAARC comprises 3% of the world’s area and 21% of the world’s population.
  4. SAARC was founded in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 8 December 1985.
  5. SAARC aims to promote regional integration and economic, technological, social, and cultural development.
  6. SAARC secretariat is based in Kathmandu, Nepal.
  7. SAARC decisions are to be unanimous and “bilateral and contentious issues” are to be avoided.
  8. The 11 areas of cooperation are (1) Agriculture; (2) Education, Culture, and sports; (3) Health, Population, and child welfare; (4) the Environment and meteorology; (5) Rural development; (6) Tourism; (7) Transport; (8) Science and technology; (9) Communications; (10) Women in development; and (11) the Prevention of drug trafficking and drug abuse.
  9. Official Website of SAARC – https://www.saarc-sec.org/
  10. Cooperation  in the SAARC  is based on respect  for the principles of sovereign   equality, territorial integrity,   political independence, non-interference  in internal affairs of the member states  and mutual benefit. 
  11. Regional   cooperation   is seen as   a complement to   the bilateral and multilateral relations of SAARC members. Decisions are taken on the basis of  unanimity.  
  12. Bilateral  and contentious  issues are excluded  from the deliberations of SAARC.

 

Objectives

The objectives of the Association as outlined in the SAARC Charter are: 

  1. to promote the welfare of the people of South Asia and to improve their quality of life; 
  2. to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region and to provide all individuals the opportunity to live in dignity and to realize their full potentials; 
  3. to promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia; 
  4. to contribute to mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another’s problems; 
  5. to promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields; 
  6. to strengthen cooperation with other developing countries; 
  7. to strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums on matters of common interests; and 
  8. to cooperate with international and regional organizations with similar aims and purposes.

 

Secretaries General

#NameCountryTook officeLeft officeDuration
1Abul AhsanBangladeshWed, January 16, 1985Sun, October 15, 19894 Yr 8 Month 29 Days
2Kant Kishore BhargavaIndiaTue, October 17, 1989Tue, December 31, 19912 Yr 2 Month 14 Days
3Ibrahim Hussein ZakiMaldivesWed, January 1, 1992Fri, December 31, 19931 Yr 11 Month 30 Days
4Yadav Kant SilwalNepalSat, January 1, 1994Sun, December 31, 19951 Yr 11 Month 30 Days
5Naeem U. HasanPakistanMon, January 1, 1996Thu, December 31, 19982 Yr 11 Month 30 Days
6Nihal RodrigoSri LankaFri, January 1, 1999Thu, January 10, 20023 Yr 0 Month 9 Days
7Q. A. M. A. RahimBangladeshFri, January 11, 2002Mon, February 28, 20053 Yr 1 Month 17 Days
8Chenkyab DorjiBhutanTue, March 1, 2005Fri, February 29, 20082 Yr 11 Month 28 Days
9Sheel Kant SharmaIndiaSat, March 1, 2008Mon, February 28, 20112 Yr 11 Month 27 Days
10Fathimath Dhiyana SaeedMaldivesTue, March 1, 2011Sun, March 11, 20121 Yr 0 Month 10 Days
11Ahmed SaleemMaldivesMon, March 12, 2012Fri, February 28, 20141 Yr 11 Month 16 Days
12Arjun Bahadur ThapaNepalSat, March 1, 2014Tue, February 28, 20172 Yr 11 Month 27 Days
13Amjad Hussain B. SialPakistanWed, March 1, 2017Tue, December 17, 20192 Yr 9 Month 16 Days

 

SAARC Summits

NoDateCountryHostHost leader
1st7–8 December 1985BangladeshDhakaAtaur Rahman Khan
2nd16–17 November 1986IndiaBengaluruRajiv Gandhi
3rd2–4 November 1987NepalKathmanduKing Birendra Bir Bikram Shah
4th29–31 December 1988PakistanIslamabadBenazir Bhutto
5th21–23 November 1990MaldivesMaléMaumoon Abdul Gayoom
6th21 December 1991Sri LankaColomboRanasinghe Premadasa
7th10–11 April 1993BangladeshDhakaKhaleda Zia
8th2–4 May 1995IndiaNew DelhiP V Narasimha Rao
9th12–14 May 1997MaldivesMaléMaumoon Abdul Gayoom
10th29–31 July 1998Sri LankaColomboChandrika Kumaratunga
11th4–6 January 2002NepalKathmanduSher Bahadur Deuba
12th2–6 January 2004PakistanIslamabadZafarullah Khan Jamali
13th12–13 November 2005BangladeshDhakaKhaleda Zia
14th3–4 April 2007IndiaNew DelhiManmohan Singh
15th1–3 August 2008Sri LankaColomboMahinda Rajapaksa
16th28–29 April 2010BhutanThimphuJigme Thinley
17th10–11 November 2011MaldivesAdduMohammed Nasheed
18th26–27 November 2014[63]NepalKathmanduSushil Koirala
19th9–10 November 2016PakistanIslamabadCancelled
20th2019Sri LankaColomboMahinda Rajapaksa

 

Apex Bodies

  1. SAARC Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCI) 
  2. South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in Law (SAARCLAW) 
  3. South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA)
  4. South Asia Foundation (SAF)
  5. Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature (FOSWAL)
  6. South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC)

Specialized Bodies

  1. SAARC Arbitration Council (SARCO)
  2. South Asian University (SAU)
  3. SAARC Development Fund (SDF) Secretariat and 
  4. SAARC Regional Standards Organization (SARSO)

 

Regional Centers

  1. SAARC Agricultural Centre (SAC), Dhaka, Bangladesh
  2. SAARC Meteorological Research Centre (SMRC), Dhaka, Bangladesh
  3. SAARC Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS Centre (STAC), Kathmandu, Nepal
  4. SAARC Documentation Centre (SDC), New Delhi, India
  5. SAARC Human Resources Development Centre (SHRDC), Islamabad
  6. SAARC Coastal Zone Management Centre (SCZMC), Maldives
  7. SAARC Information Centre (SIC), Nepal
  8. SAARC Energy Centre (SEC), Pakistan
  9. SAARC Disaster Management Centre (SDMC), India
  10. SAARC Forestry Centre (SFC), Bhutan
  11. SAARC Cultural Centre (SCC), Sri Lanka
  12. SAARC Development Fund, Bhutan

 

History

  1. SAARC was an indigenous project and not initiated by a foreign power. The idea was initiated by Bangladesh.
  2. The foreign secretaries of the seven founding countries—Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka—met for the first time in Colombo in April 1981 to shape up the idea of regional cooperation.
  3. The foreign ministers in New Delhi in August 1983, adopted the Declaration on South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and formally launched the Integrated Program of Action (IPA) in the five agreed areas of cooperation: agriculture; rural development; telecommunications; meteorology; and health and population activities.
  4. Later, transport; postal services; scientific and technological cooperation; and sports, arts, and culture were added to the IPA. 
  5. Afghanistan became the newest member of SAARC at the 13th annual summit in 2005. China and Japan were granted observer status at the same.

 

Achievements of SAARC

  1. SAFTA – A Free Trade Agreement confined to goods, but excluding all services like information technology. Agreement was signed to reduce customs duties of all traded goods to zero by the year 2016.
  2. SAPTA – South Asia Preferential Trading Agreement for promoting trade among the member countries came into effect in 1995.
  3. SAARC visa exemption decided that certain categories of dignitaries should be entitled to a Special Travel document, which would exempt them from visas within the region.
  4. South Asian Forum – SAARC can play a greater role and act as a forum for South Asia.

 

Problems of SAARC

  1. India the hegemon – India is the largest country in the organization and borders every member state of SAARC except Afghanistan. Instead of cooperation, every member state has felt the role of India as a hegemon state.
  2. Pak-India relations have always affected the SAARC. Tensions between India and Pak led to the cancellation of SAARC summit in Islamabad in 2017 due to the boycott of India, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
  3. Poverty in South Asia – SAARC region is home to the poorest people in the world other than Africa. Human Development Index (HDI) of member countries is very low.
  4. Similar Economies – SAARC countries have similar agrarian and low tech economies and chances of trade and exchange of goods among the member countries are low. Member countries have biggest trade partner as China instead of trade in the SAARC.
  5. Focus on Socio-economic Development – SAARC was established with a  focus on socio-economic development; however the idea of socio-economic development without the resolution of political issues, especially between India and Pakistan has not succeeded. 
  6. Poor regional connectivity – India being at the center of South Asia, other countries lack necessary connectivity and thus there is very less flow of trade and other activities among the member states. Almost  all SAARC bodies and subsidiary bodies and offices are working in the social fields. Political fields and enhancement of trust and promotion of cooperation  in political fields have been left out of the focus.
  7. Trust deficit among the member states – Relations especially Pak-Afghanistan, Pak-Bangladesh, Pak-India, Bangladesh-India and India-Nepal are not normal and on good terms, thus hampering the entire SAARC activity.
  8. Territorial disputes – Pak-India (Kashmir, Sir Creek etc.), Pak-Afghanistan (Durand Line), India-Nepal (Kali River etc.), India-Bangladesh Border issues etc.
  9. Inequality among member states – Among the 8 member countries, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are larger countries whereas other member states are very small. Issues among the larger countries have hampered the progress of SAARC. 
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