The South Asian Association forRegional Co-operation (SAARC) is an organisation of South Asian nations, which was established on 8 December 1985 for the promotion of economic and social progress, cultural development within the South Asia region and also for friendship and co-operation with other developing countries. The SAARC Group (SAARC) comprises of Bangaladesh, Bhutan, India, The Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In April 2007, Afghanistan became its eighth member. The basic aim of the organisation is to accelerate the process of economic and social development of member states through joint action in the agreed areas of cooperation. The SAARC Secretariat was established in Kathmandu (Nepal) on 16th January 1987. The first SAARC summit was held at Dhaka in the year 1985. SAARC meets once in two years. Recently, the 20th SAARC summit was hosted by Srilanka in 2018.
Objectives of SAARC
According to Article I of the Charter of the SAARC, the objectives of the Association are as follows:
i) To promote the welfare of the people of South Asia and improve their quality of life;
ii) To accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region;
iii) To promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia;
iv) To contribute to mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another’s problems;
v) To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields;
vi) To strengthen co-operation with other developing countries;
vii) To strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums on matters of common interest;
vii) To cooperate with international and regional organisations with similar aims and purposes.
Functions of SAARC
The main functions of SAARC are as follows:
1. Maintenance of the co operation in the region
2. Prevention of common problems
associated with the member nations.
3. Ensuring strong relationship among the member nations.
4. Removal of the poverty through various packages of programmes.
5. Prevention of terrorism in the region.
Achievements of SAARC
1. The establishment of SAARC Preferential Trading Agreement (SAPTA) and reduction in tariff and non-tariff barriers on imports.
2. The setting up of Technical Committees for economic cooperation among SAARC countries relating to agriculture, communications, education, health and population, rural development, science and technology, tourism, etc.
3. SAARC has established a three-tier
mechanism for exchanging information on poverty reduction programmes which is passed on to member countries.
4. SAARC Agricultural Information Centre (SAIC) in 1988 works as a central information institution for agriculture related resources like fisheries, forestry, etc.
5. South Asian Development Fund (SADF) for development projects,human resource development and infrastructural development
projects. With all these tall claims, the inter-SAARC Trade has not gone beyond three percent in the last 30 years.