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South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC)

SAARC- South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation

The South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) is an organization of South Asian nations founded in 1985 and dedicated to economic, technological, social and cultural development emphasizing collective self-reliance. It seven founding members are Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka Afghanistan joined the organization in 2007.


The association provides a platform for the people of South Asia to work together in a spirit of friendship, trust and understanding. It aims to promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and to improve their quality of life through accelerated economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region.

The following are the main objective of SAARC:

  1. To promote the socio-economic welfare and cultural development of the people in the region.
  2. To encourage active collaboration in the economic social technical and scientific fields among the member nations.
  3. To strengthen over-all co-operation and harmonious economic and political relations among the countries of the SAARC.
  4. TO promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the member countries.
  5. To contribute to mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another’s problems.
  6. To facilitate optimum utilization of human and material resources.
  7. To stimulate investment flows and accelerate pace of economic development.
  8. To develop free regional trade.


SAARC is based on the following principles:

  1. Co-operation 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 for mutual benefit.
  2. Regional co-operation is seen as a complement to the bilateral and multilateral relations of SAARC Member States.
  3. Decisions are taken on the basis of unanimity. Bilateral and contentious issues are excluded from the deliberation of SAARC.

General Provisions

  1. Decisions at all levels in SAARC are taken on the basic of unanimity.
  2. Bilateral and contentious issues are excluded from the deliberations of the Association.


The organization of SAARC consists of the following:

  1. Summits:

    Summits are the highest authority in SAARC and are to be held annually. The country hosting the summit holds the Chain of the Association.

Following meeting of the heads of member countries were held, as shown in Table:

Table: SAARC Summit: When and Where?


Note: SAARC summits are held on annual basis, summit is the highest decision making forum of SAARC, On some occasions, the summits have not been held on annual basis.

  1. SAARC Secretariat:

    The SAARC Secretarial is based in Kathmandu. It meetings, and serves as a channel of communication between the Association and its Member States as well as other regional organizations.

The Secretariat is headed by the Secretary General, who is appointed by the Council of Ministers from Member Countries in alphabetical order for a three-year term. The Secretary General is assisted by seven Directors on Deputation from Member States.

  1. Council of Ministers:

    The Council of Ministers comprising of Foreign Ministers of member countries meet at least twice a year. Its functions include formulating policy, reviewing progress of regional co- operation, identifying new areas of co-operation and establishing additional mechanisms that may be necessary.

  2. Standing Committee:

    The Standing Committee comprising of Foreign Secretaries, Monitors and Co-ordinates SAARC programs of Co-operation, approves projects including their financing and mobilizes regional and external resources. It meets as often as necessary and reports to the Council of Ministers.

  3. Programming Committee:

    The Programming Committee assists the Standing Committee. It includes senior officials. It scrutinizes the budget of the Secretarial, finalizes the annual schedule of its activities and takes up any other matter assigned by the Standing Committee.

Progress and Achievements of SAARC

The South Asian Association for Regional co-operation (SAARC) has how completed thirty four years Since its establishment on 8th December, 1985, From relatively modest beginning, SAARC members have been gradually expanding their co-operation to cover new areas of common interest.

We can study thee progress and achievements of SAARC under the following heads:

  1. Technical Committees:

    In the beginning SAARC focused primarily on achieving technical co-operation with the aim of creating common ground for progress and development. Eleven Technical Committees have been set-up under SAARC, covering Agriculture, Communications, Education, Culture and Sports Prevention of Drug Trafficking and Technology, Tourism, Transport and Women’s Development.

  2. Social Agenda:

    Beginning about 1990, the second stage of co- operation within SAARC was on the Social Agenda. Major Initiatives have been taken on social issues such as eradication of poverty, promotion of literacy and development o women and children.

  3. Food Security Reserve:

    An Agreement on establishing a SAARC Food Security Reserve was signed in 1987 and came into effect on the 12the of August, 1988. This provides for a reserve of food grains for meeting emergencies in Member Countries. The reserve is to be maintained at a minimum level of 12,00,000 tones wit India’s share being 1, 53, 000 tones.

  1. Information and Media:

    A beginning has also been made to develop co-operation in the important field of Information and Media. The First SAARC Information Ministers Meeting which was held in Dhaka in April 1998 adopted and Action Plan for strengthening co-operation through, inter alia, grater interaction amongst media personnel, co- operation amongst news agencies, free flow of newspapers journals and books within the region and reduction of hostile propaganda.

  2. Environment:

    Four Ministerial Meetings on Environment have been held so far. The Third Meeting of SAARC Environment Ministers was held in Maldives in October 1997 to consider the recommendations of the two SAARCC Studies on causes and consequences of Natural Disasters and the Greenhouse Effect and its impact on the Region.

As the major focus was green and happy South Asia in Thimphu Summit, the leader issued a separate Thimphu Summit statement on climate change on April 29,2010 besides the main Declaration.

  1. Achievement of SAPTA:

    SAPTA among SAARC countries became operative since December 7,1995. It was the success of Eighth SAARC Conference held in New Delhi in 1995 where this new concessional trade system of SAPTA was approved.

  2. Development of Institutional Framework:

    From 2007 Summit onwards, SAARC has focused on the development of institutional framework for strengthening regional co-operation. The 16th Summit has underlined the need of dialogue and discussions among the members to resolve their differences.

  3. Open Forum:

    The SAARC Provides an open forum to its members to exchange their ideas and views regarding South Asia, present and future, and its potential role in the international affairs. The continuous international affairs and linkages among members States would strengthen the idea and identity of South Asian solidarity.

Measures adopted to increase Economic Co-operation Trade in SAARC

Empirical evidence shows that there is an ample scope for extending trade and economic relation among the contrives of SAARC region. Following suggestions measures are made to increase trade and economic co- operation among the SAARC countries-

  1. The progress of SAARC, in general has remained very slow due to lack of adequate consensus among the countries. For the success of SAARC co-operation amongst the countries should undergo through preferential trading arrangements, open data bank, start joint R and D programme and develop a common support service programme.
  2. The SAARC countries should assume foreign trade as a priority sector under the rapid globalization of their economies. They must achieve co-ordination of their technical know-how and scientific research with mutual help for their industrial growth and development.
  3. Production capacities at the regional level should be enhanced through co-operation among SAARC countries so that intra-regional trade and trade with outside countries increase.
  4. SAARC members should set-up joint ventures in each other’s country, especially in the least developed countries.
  5. Big Member States of SAARC should help small member countries in developing their power, transport, infrastructure, communication and other resources so that their economic capacities may improve and they may achieve diversification.

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