SAARC South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
- The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is the regional intergovernmental organization of the countries of South Asia.
- The 8 member states are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
- SAARC comprises 3% of the world’s area and 21% of the world’s population.
- SAARC was founded in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 8 December 1985.
- SAARC aims to promote regional integration and economic, technological, social, and cultural development.
- SAARC secretariat is based in Kathmandu, Nepal.
- SAARC decisions are to be unanimous and “bilateral and contentious issues” are to be avoided.
- 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.
- Official Website of SAARC – https://www.saarc-sec.org/
- 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.
- Regional cooperation is seen as a complement to the bilateral and multilateral relations of SAARC members. Decisions are taken on the basis of unanimity.
- Bilateral and contentious issues are excluded from the deliberations of SAARC.
The objectives of the Association as outlined in the SAARC Charter are:
- to promote the welfare of the people of South Asia and to improve their quality of life;
- 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;
- to promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia;
- to contribute to mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another’s problems;
- to promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields;
- to strengthen cooperation with other developing countries;
- to strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums on matters of common interests; and
- to cooperate with international and regional organizations with similar aims and purposes.
|#||Name||Country||Took office||Left office||Duration|
|1||Abul Ahsan||Bangladesh||Wed, January 16, 1985||Sun, October 15, 1989||4 Yr 8 Month 29 Days|
|2||Kant Kishore Bhargava||India||Tue, October 17, 1989||Tue, December 31, 1991||2 Yr 2 Month 14 Days|
|3||Ibrahim Hussein Zaki||Maldives||Wed, January 1, 1992||Fri, December 31, 1993||1 Yr 11 Month 30 Days|
|4||Yadav Kant Silwal||Nepal||Sat, January 1, 1994||Sun, December 31, 1995||1 Yr 11 Month 30 Days|
|5||Naeem U. Hasan||Pakistan||Mon, January 1, 1996||Thu, December 31, 1998||2 Yr 11 Month 30 Days|
|6||Nihal Rodrigo||Sri Lanka||Fri, January 1, 1999||Thu, January 10, 2002||3 Yr 0 Month 9 Days|
|7||Q. A. M. A. Rahim||Bangladesh||Fri, January 11, 2002||Mon, February 28, 2005||3 Yr 1 Month 17 Days|
|8||Chenkyab Dorji||Bhutan||Tue, March 1, 2005||Fri, February 29, 2008||2 Yr 11 Month 28 Days|
|9||Sheel Kant Sharma||India||Sat, March 1, 2008||Mon, February 28, 2011||2 Yr 11 Month 27 Days|
|10||Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed||Maldives||Tue, March 1, 2011||Sun, March 11, 2012||1 Yr 0 Month 10 Days|
|11||Ahmed Saleem||Maldives||Mon, March 12, 2012||Fri, February 28, 2014||1 Yr 11 Month 16 Days|
|12||Arjun Bahadur Thapa||Nepal||Sat, March 1, 2014||Tue, February 28, 2017||2 Yr 11 Month 27 Days|
|13||Amjad Hussain B. Sial||Pakistan||Wed, March 1, 2017||Tue, December 17, 2019||2 Yr 9 Month 16 Days|
|1st||7–8 December 1985||Bangladesh||Dhaka||Ataur Rahman Khan|
|2nd||16–17 November 1986||India||Bengaluru||Rajiv Gandhi|
|3rd||2–4 November 1987||Nepal||Kathmandu||King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah|
|4th||29–31 December 1988||Pakistan||Islamabad||Benazir Bhutto|
|5th||21–23 November 1990||Maldives||Malé||Maumoon Abdul Gayoom|
|6th||21 December 1991||Sri Lanka||Colombo||Ranasinghe Premadasa|
|7th||10–11 April 1993||Bangladesh||Dhaka||Khaleda Zia|
|8th||2–4 May 1995||India||New Delhi||P V Narasimha Rao|
|9th||12–14 May 1997||Maldives||Malé||Maumoon Abdul Gayoom|
|10th||29–31 July 1998||Sri Lanka||Colombo||Chandrika Kumaratunga|
|11th||4–6 January 2002||Nepal||Kathmandu||Sher Bahadur Deuba|
|12th||2–6 January 2004||Pakistan||Islamabad||Zafarullah Khan Jamali|
|13th||12–13 November 2005||Bangladesh||Dhaka||Khaleda Zia|
|14th||3–4 April 2007||India||New Delhi||Manmohan Singh|
|15th||1–3 August 2008||Sri Lanka||Colombo||Mahinda Rajapaksa|
|16th||28–29 April 2010||Bhutan||Thimphu||Jigme Thinley|
|17th||10–11 November 2011||Maldives||Addu||Mohammed Nasheed|
|18th||26–27 November 2014||Nepal||Kathmandu||Sushil Koirala|
|19th||9–10 November 2016||Pakistan||Islamabad||Cancelled|
|20th||2019||Sri Lanka||Colombo||Mahinda Rajapaksa|
- SAARC Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCI)
- South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in Law (SAARCLAW)
- South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA)
- South Asia Foundation (SAF)
- Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature (FOSWAL)
- South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC)
- SAARC Arbitration Council (SARCO)
- South Asian University (SAU)
- SAARC Development Fund (SDF) Secretariat and
- SAARC Regional Standards Organization (SARSO)
- SAARC Agricultural Centre (SAC), Dhaka, Bangladesh
- SAARC Meteorological Research Centre (SMRC), Dhaka, Bangladesh
- SAARC Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS Centre (STAC), Kathmandu, Nepal
- SAARC Documentation Centre (SDC), New Delhi, India
- SAARC Human Resources Development Centre (SHRDC), Islamabad
- SAARC Coastal Zone Management Centre (SCZMC), Maldives
- SAARC Information Centre (SIC), Nepal
- SAARC Energy Centre (SEC), Pakistan
- SAARC Disaster Management Centre (SDMC), India
- SAARC Forestry Centre (SFC), Bhutan
- SAARC Cultural Centre (SCC), Sri Lanka
- SAARC Development Fund, Bhutan
- SAARC was an indigenous project and not initiated by a foreign power. The idea was initiated by Bangladesh.
- 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.
- 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.
- Later, transport; postal services; scientific and technological cooperation; and sports, arts, and culture were added to the IPA.
- 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
- 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.
- SAPTA – South Asia Preferential Trading Agreement for promoting trade among the member countries came into effect in 1995.
- 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.
- South Asian Forum – SAARC can play a greater role and act as a forum for South Asia.
Problems of SAARC
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Territorial disputes – Pak-India (Kashmir, Sir Creek etc.), Pak-Afghanistan (Durand Line), India-Nepal (Kali River etc.), India-Bangladesh Border issues etc.
- 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.