South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
South Asia Association for Regional
|-||Secretary-General||Arjun Bahadur Thapa|
|-||Directors|| Afghanistan Ibrahim Ghafoori 
Bangladesh Tareque Muhammad
Bhutan Singye Dorjee 
India Amrit Lugun
Maldives Ibrahim Zuhuree
Nepal Dhan Oli
Pakistan Ahmar Ismail
Sri Lanka Prasanna Gamage
|Establishment||8 December 1985|
|a.||If considered as a single entity.|
|b.||A unified currency has been proposed.|
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is an economic and geopolitical cooperation among eight member nations that are primarily located in South Asia continent. Its secretariat is headquartered in Kathmandu, Nepal.
The idea of regional political and economical cooperation in South Asia was first coined in 1980 and the first summit held in Dhaka on 8 December in 1985 led to its official establishment by the governments of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. In the intervening years, its successors have grown in size by the accession of new member states. Afghanistan was the first to have been accessed in the physical enlargement of the SAARC in 2007.
The SAARC policies aim to promote welfare economics, collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia, and to accelerate socio-cultural development in the region. The SAARC has developed a role in external relations around the world. Permanent diplomatic relations have been established with the EU, the UN (as an observer), and other multilateral entities. On annual scheduled basis, the official meetings of leaders of each nation are held; meetings of foreign secretaries, twice annually. The 18th SAARC Summit would be held at Kathmandu, Nepal in November 2014.
- 1 History
- 2 SAARC Charter
- 3 Principles
- 4 Secretariat
- 5 Apex and Recognised Bodies
- 6 Political issues
- 7 South Asian Free Trade Area
- 8 SAARC Visa Exemption Scheme
- 9 Awards
- 10 SAARC Anthem
- 11 Members of SAARC
- 12 Secretaries-General of SAARC
- 13 SAARC summits
- 14 Governance and Leadership of SAARC
- 15 See also
- 16 References
- 17 External links
The idea of regional co-operation in South Asia was discussed in at least three conferences: the Asian Relations Conference held in New Delhi on April 1947; the Baguio Conference in the Philippines on May 1950; and the Colombo Powers Conference held in Sri Lanka on April 1954.
In the ending years of 1970s, the seven inner South Asian nations that included Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka agreed upon the creation of a trade bloc and to provide a platform for the peoples of South Asia to work together in a spirit of friendship, trust and understanding. Efforts towards establishing the union was first mooted by the Late King Birendra Shah of Nepal. President Ziaur Rahman later addressed official letters to the leaders of the countries of the South Asia, presenting his vision for the future of the region and the compelling arguments for region. During his visit to India in December 1977, President Ziaur Rahman discussed the issue of regional cooperation with the Indian Prime Minister, Morarji Desai. In the inaugural speech to the Colombo Plan Consultative Committee which met in Kathmandu also in 1977, King Birendra of Nepal gave a call for close regional cooperation among South Asian countries in sharing river waters. After the USSR's intervention in Afghanistan, the efforts to established the union was accelerated in 1979 and the resulting rapid deterioration of South Asian security situation. Responding to the President Zia Rehman and King Birendra's convention, the officials of the foreign ministries of the seven countries met for the first time in Colombo in April 1981. The Bangladesh's proposal was promptly endorsed by Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Maldives but India and Pakistan were skeptical initially. The Indian concern was the proposal’s reference to the security matters in South Asia and feared that President Zia Rehman's proposal for a regional organization might provide an opportunity for new smaller neighbors to renationalized all bilateral issues and to join with each other to gang up against India. Pakistan assumed that it might be an Indian strategy to organize the other South Asian countries against Pakistan and ensure a regional market for Indian products, thereby consolidating and further strengthening India’s economic dominance in the region.
However, after a series of quiet diplomatic consultations between South Asian foreign ministers at the UN headquarters in New York from August to September 1980, it was agreed that Bangladesh would prepare the draft of a working paper for discussion among the foreign secretaries of South Asian countries. The foreign secretaries of inner seven countries again delegated a Committee of the Whole in Colombo on September 1981, which identified five broad areas for regional cooperation. New areas of co-operation were added in the following years.
In 1983, the International conference held by Indian Minister of External Affairs PVN Rao in New Delhi, the foreign ministers of the inner seven countries adopted the Declaration on South Asian Association Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and formally launched the Integrated Programme of Action (IPA) initially in five agreed areas of cooperation namely, Agriculture; Rural Development; Telecommunications; Meteorology; and Health and Population Activities.
Officially, the union was established in Dhaka with Kathmandu being union's secretariat-general. The first SAARC summit was held in Dhaka on 7–8 December 1985 and hosted by the President of Bangladesh Hussain Ershad. The declaration signed by King of Bhutan Jigme Singye, President of Pakistan Zia-ul-Haq, Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi, King of Nepal Birendra Shah, President of Sri Lanka JR Jayewardene, and President of Maldives Maumoon Gayoom.
In 2005, Afghanistan began negotiating of joining the SAARC and applied for the membership the same year. The issue of Afghanistan joining the SAARC generated a great deal of debate in each state, and many analysts raised questions about the notion of the malleability of South Asian identity because of Afghanistan being a Central Asian country.
The SAARC member states imposed a stipulation for Afghanistan to hold a general election; the non-partisan elections were held in late 2005. In 2007, Afghanistan joined the SAARC as an eighth member state, despite initial reluctance and internal debates. The inclusion of Afghanistan as SAARC member was announced in New Delhi on 4 April 2007 by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
- Desirous of promoting peace, stability, amity and progress in the region through strict adherence to the principles of the UNITED NATIONS CHARTER and NON-ALIGNMENT, particularly respect for the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, national independence, non-use of force and non-interference in the internal affairs of other States and peaceful settlement of all disputes.
- Conscious that in an increasingly interdependent world, the objectives of peace, freedom, social justice and economic prosperity are best achieved in the SOUTH ASIAN region by fostering mutual understanding, good neighbourly relations and meaningful co-operation among the Member States which are bound by ties of history and culture.
- Aware of the common problems, interests and aspirations of the peoples of SOUTH ASIA and the need for joint action and enhanced co-operation within their respective political and economic systems and cultural traditions.
- Convinced that regional co-operation among the countries of SOUTH ASIA is mutually beneficial, desirable and necessary for promoting the welfare and improving the quality of life of the peoples of the region.
- Convinced further that economic, social and technical co-operation among the countries of SOUTH ASIA would contribute significantly to national and collective self-reliance.
- Recognising that increased co-operation, contacts and exchanges among the countries of the region will contribute to the promotion of friendship and understanding among their peoples.
- Recalling the DECLARATION signed by their Foreign Ministers in NEW DELHI on 2 August 1983 and noting the progress achieved in regional co-operation.
- Reaffirming their determination to promote such co-operation within an institutional framework.
Objectives of SAARC
The objectives and the aims of the Association as defined in the 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 realise their full potential ;
- to promote and strengthen selective 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 co-operation with other developing countries;
- to strengthen co-operation among themselves in international forums on matters of common interest; and
- to co-operate with international and regional organisations with similar aims and purposes.
- to maintain peace in the region
The principles are as follows
- Respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, political equality and independence of all members states
- Non-interference in the internal matters is one of its objectives
- Cooperation for mutual benefit
- All decisions to be taken unanimously on the basis of consensus and need a quorum of all eight members
- All bilateral issues to be kept aside and only multilateral(involving many countries) issues to be discussed without being prejudiced by bilateral issues
Afghanistan was added to the regional grouping on April 2007, With the addition of Afghanistan, the total number of member states were raised to eight (8). In April 2006, the United States of America and South Korea made formal requests to be granted observer status. The European Union has also indicated interest in being given observer status, and made a formal request for the same to the SAARC Council of Ministers meeting in July 2006. On 2 August 2006 the foreign ministers of the SAARC countries agreed in principle to grant observer status to the US, South Korea and the European Union. On 4 March 2008, Iran requested observer status. Followed shortly by the entrance of Mauritius. Myanmar has expressed interest in upgrading its status from an observer to a full member of SAARC, while Russia is interested in becoming an observer.
The SAARC Secretariat was established in Kathmandu on 16 January 1987 and was inaugurated by Late King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah of Nepal.
It is headed by the Secretary General appointed by the Council of Ministers from Member Countries in an alphabetical order for a three-year term. He is assisted by the Professional and the General Service Staff, and also an appropriate number of functional units called Divisions assigned to Directors on deputation from Member States. The Secretariat coordinates and monitors implementation of activities, prepares for and services meetings, and serves as a channel of communication between the Association and its Member States as well as other regional organisations.
The Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of the Secretariat which was signed by Foreign Ministers of member countries on 17 November 1986 at Bangalore, India contains various clauses concerning the role, structure and administration of the SAARC Secretariat as well as the powers of the Secretary-General.
In several recent meetings the heads of state or government of member states of SAARC have taken some important decisions and bold initiatives to strengthen the organisation and to widen and deepen regional co-operation.
The SAARC Secretariat and Member States observe 8 December as the SAARC Charter Day. Nepal’s former foreign secretary Arjun Bahadur Thapa is current Secretary General of SAARC.
Council of Ministers
- Council of Ministers consisting of the Foreign Ministers of the Member States established with the following functions:
- Formulation of the policies of the ASSOCIATION
- Review of the progress of co-operation under the ASSOCIATION
- Decision on new areas of co-operation
- Establishment of additional mechanism under the ASSOCIATION as deemed necessary
- Decision on other matters of general interest to the ASSOCIATION.
The Council of Ministers meets twice a year. Extraordinary session of the Council may be held by agreement among the Member States.
The SAARC Secretariat is supported by following Regional Centres established in Member States to promote regional co-operation. These Centres are managed by Governing Boards comprising representatives from all the Member States, SAARC Secretary-General and the Ministry of Foreign/External Affairs of the Host Government. The Director of the Centre acts as Member Secretary to the Governing Board which reports to the Programming Committee.
- SAARC Agricultural Centre (SAC), Dhaka
- SAARC Meteorological Research Centre (SMRC), Dhaka
- SAARC Tuberculosis Centre (STC), Kathmandu
- SAARC Documentation Centre (SDC), New Delhi
- 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 Development Fund (SDF), Bhutan
- SAARC Forestry Centre (SFC), Bhutan
- SAARC Cultural Centre (SCC), Sri Lanka
Apex and Recognised Bodies
SAARC has six Apex Bodies, namely, SAARC Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCI), SAARCLAW (South Asian Association For Regional Cooperation In Law), South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA), South Asia Foundation (SAF), South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC), Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature (FOSWAL)
Hemant Batra is the current incumbent Secretary General of SAARCLAW.
SAARC also has about 17 recognised bodies.
Lasting peace and prosperity of the Indian subcontinent has been elusive due to the various ongoing conflicts and in the region. Political dialogue is often conducted on the margins of SAARC meetings which have refrained from interfering in the internal matters of its member states. During the 12th and 13th SAARC summits, extreme emphasis was laid upon greater co-operation between the SAARC members to fight terrorism.
South Asian Free Trade Area
SAFTA was envisaged primarily as the first step towards the transition to a South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) leading subsequently towards a Customs Union, Common Market and Economic Union. In 1995, the Sixteenth session of the Council of Ministers (New Delhi, 18–19 December 1995) agreed on the need to strive for the realisation of SAFTA and to this end an Inter-Governmental Expert Group (IGEG) was set up in 1996 to identify the necessary steps for progressing to a free trade area. The Tenth SAARC Summit (Colombo, 29–31 July 1998) decided to set up a Committee of Experts (COE) to draft a comprehensive treaty framework for creating a free trade area within the region, taking into consideration the asymmetries in development within the region and bearing in mind the need to fix realistic and achievable targets. The SAFTA Agreement was signed on 6 January 2004 during Twelfth SAARC Summit held in Islamabad, Pakistan. The Agreement entered into force on 1 January 2006, and the Trade Liberalization Programme commenced from 1 July 2006. Under this agreement, SAARC members will bring their duties down to 20 per cent by 2009. Following the Agreement coming into force the SAFTA Ministerial Council (SMC) has been established comprising the Commerce Ministers of the Member States.
SAARC Visa Exemption Scheme
The SAARC Visa Exemption Scheme was launched in 1992. The leaders at the Fourth Summit (Islamabad, 29–31 December 1988), while realising the importance of having people to people contacts, among the peoples of SAARC countries, decided that certain categories of dignitaries should be entitled to a Special Travel document, which would exempt them from visas within the region. As directed by the Summit, the Council of Ministers regularly kept under review the list of entitled categories. Currently the list included 24 categories of entitled persons, which include Dignitaries, Judges of higher courts, Parliamentarians, Senior Officials, Businessmen, Journalists, Sportsmen etc. The Visa Stickers are issued by the respective Member States to the entitled categories of that particular country. The validity of the Visa Sticker is generally for one year. The implementation is reviewed regularly by the Immigration Authorities of SAAR Member States.
The Twelfth Summit (Islamabad, January 2004) approved the institution of the SAARC Award to honour and encourage outstanding individuals and organisations within the region. The main objectives of the SAARC Award are:
- To encourage individuals and organisations based in South Asia to undertake programmes and activities complementing the efforts of SAARC
- To encourage individuals and organisations in South Asia contributing to the improvement of the conditions of women and children
- To honour outstanding contributions and achievements of individuals and organisations within the region in the fields of peace, development, poverty alleviation, environment protection and regional co-operation making the SAARC Award the most prestigious Award in the region; and
- To honour any other outstanding contributions and achievements, not covered above, of individuals and organisations in the region.
The SAARC Award comprises a gold medal, a letter of citation and cash prize of US $ 25,000. Since institution of SAARC Award in 2004, it has been awarded only once and the Award was posthumoulsy conferred upon Late President Ziaur Rahman of Bangladesh.
SAARC Literary Award
SAARC Literary Award is an annual award conferred by the Foundation of SAARC (South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation) Writers and Literature (FOSWAL) since 2001 which is an apex SAARC body. Shamshur Rahman, Mahasweta Devi, Jayanta Mahapatra, Mark Tully are some of the prominent recipients of this award.
SAARC Youth Award
The SAARC Youth Award is awarded to outstanding individuals from the SAARC region. The award is notable due to the recognition it gives to the Award winner in the SAARC region. The award is based on specific themes which apply to each year. The award recognises and promotes the commitment and talent of the youth who give back to the world at large through various initiatives such as Inventions, Protection of the Environment and Disaster relief. The recipients who receive this award are ones who have dedicated their lives to their individual causes to improve situations in their own countries as well as paving a path for the SAARC region to follow. The Committee for the SAARC Youth Award selects the best candidate based on his/her merits and their decision is final.
- 1997: Outstanding Social Service in Community Welfare – Mohammed Sukur Salek (Bangladesh)
- 1998: New Inventions and Shanu - Najmul Hasnain Shah (Pakistan)
- 2001: Creative Photography: South Asian Diversity – Mushfiqul Alam (Bangladesh)
- 2002: Outstanding contribution to protect the Environment – Masil Khan (Pakistan)
- 2003: Invention in the Field of Traditional Medicine – Hassan Sher (Pakistan)
- 2004: Outstanding contribution to raising awareness for TB and/or HIV/AIDS – Ajij Prasad Poudyal (Nepal)
- 2006: Promotion of Tourism in South Asia – Syed Zafar Abbas Naqvi (Pakistan)
- 2008: Protecting the Environment in South Asia – Uswatta Liyanage Deepani Jayantha (Sri Lanka)
- 2009: Outstanding contribution to humanitarian works in the aftermath of Natural Disasters – Ravikant Singh (India)
- 2010: Outstanding contribution for the Protection of Environment and mitigation of Climate Change – Anoka Primrose Abeyrathne (Sri Lanka)
Members of SAARC
- Sri Lanka
- European Union
- South Korea
- United States
Potential future members
- China has expressed interest in establishing special relations with SAARC, and is supported by Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Maldives.
- Burma has expressed interest in upgrading its status from an observer to a full member of SAARC.
- Russia has applied for observer status membership of SAARC.
- Turkey has applied for observer status membership of SAARC in 2012.
- South Africa has participated in meetings.
Secretaries-General of SAARC
|Abul Ahsan||16 January 1985 to 15 October 1989|
|Kishore Kant Bhargava||17 October 1989 to 31 December 1991|
|Ibrahim Hussain Zaki||1 January 1992 to 31 December 1993|
|Yadav Kant Silwal||1 January 1994 to 31 December 1995|
|Naeem U. Hasan||1 January 1996 to 31 December 1998|
|Nihal Rodrigo||1 January 1999 to 10 January 2002|
|Q.A.M.A. Rahim||11 January 2002 to 28 February 2005|
|Lyonpo Chenkyab Dorji||1 March 2005 to 29 February 2008|
|Sheel Kant Sharma||1 March 2008 to 28 February 2011|
|Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed||1 March 2011 to 11 March 2012|
|Ahmed Saleem||12 March 2012 to 28 February 2014|
|Arjun Bahadur Thapa||01 March 2014- 2017|
|1st||7–8 December 1985||Bangladesh||Dhaka||Ataur Rahman Khan|
|2nd||16–17 November 1986||India||Bangalore||Jayanth M Gowda|
|3rd||2–4 November 1987||Nepal||Kathmandu||Marich Man Singh Shrestha|
|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||November 2014||Nepal||Kathmandu||Sushil Koirala|
Governance and Leadership of SAARC
- Asia Cooperation Dialogue
- Asia-Pacific Research and Training Network on Trade
- Asia-Pacific Trade Agreements Database
- Asian Clearing Union
- Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation
- List of SAARC summits
- Mekong-Ganga Cooperation
- SAARC Consortium on Open and Distance Learning
- SAARC Fountain
- South Asia Free Trade Agreement
- South Asian Economic Union
- South Asian Federation of Accountants
- South Asian Football Federation
- South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation
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-  FOSWAL Website
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-  Official website of SAARC:Apex and Recognized Bodies
- Mahasweta Devi to get SAARC Literary Award Oneindia.in March 30, 2007
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- SAARC hi nations call for transparency in social sector – Thaindian News
- SAARC website | Xi Jinping || 1 January 2014 to 28 March 2011
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.|
- Official website
- Internet Mapping for SAARC
- Digital Atlas of SAARC by oopslite technologies
- SAARC Youth