The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is an economic and geopolitical organisation of eight South Asian nations. Those member countries include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The organization made on the recommendations of Dhaka Conference on December 7-8, 1985. Presently, the Secretariat is headed by Nepal’s ex-foreign secretary – Arjun Bahadur Thapa.
Its headquarter is based in Kathmandu. The conference of members is held every year. For the last two months, SAARC has been frequently making headlines with several new developments being proposed by its member nations. However, the organization continues to face many challenges. Disputes between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan have often clouded the union’s potential and progress.
Background of SAARC :
It was back in 1980 when the concept of regional political and economic cooperation in South Asia was first thought. The ex-president of Bangladesh, Ziaur Rahman was the one who made a formal proposal on May 2, 1980 about SAARC. The first SAARC summit was held in Dhaka and Afghanistan is the only new inclusion that happened since SAARC was established.
SAARC compromises 3% of the world’s area, 21% of the world’s population and 9.12% of the global economy, as of 2015. The organization promotes development economics and regional integration. It launched the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) in 2006. Earlier to this SAPTA established in 1995 had paved the way to SAFTA. The SAARC maintains permanent diplomatic relations at the UN as an observer and has developed links with multilateral entities, including the EU.
The Objectives of SAARC are :
- Promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and improve their quality of life.
- Accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region by providing all individuals the opportunity to live in dignity and realize their full potential.
- Contribute to mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another’s problems.
- Promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields.
- Strengthen co-operation with other developing countries and also among themselves in international forms on matters of common interest.
- Cooperate with international and regional organisation with similar aims and purposes.
SAARC mainly operates through six apex bodies which ensure regional cooperation on multiple levels:
1. SAARC Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCI)
2. SAARCLAW (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in Law)
3. South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA)
4. South Asia Foundation (SAF)
5. South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC)
6. Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature (FOSWAL)