SAARC’s full form is the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. It is a major regional initiative for economic and technological cooperation among the countries of South Asia. Its Secretariat is based in Kathmandu, Nepal and is hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal. SAARC was formed by India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh to enhance their “mutual interests by strengthening their partnership in a globalised world.”
History of SAARC
The South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is a regional inter-governmental organisation and geopolitical union, which was established in 1985 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, after the Summit (which consisted of seven countries: Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) due to the efforts of former President Ziaur Rahman and Moudud Ahmed Chowdhury. Other goals were decided later on, including but not limited to agriculture, rural developments, telecommunication, weather, health and family planning, poverty eradication, scientific development etc. However, as an organisation, SAARC started its “marching” step forward when in 2003, it accepted Afghanistan to be a part of their conference with diplomatic permission from India. Then In 2007, Bhutan was allowed to sit at their conference as an observer nation after Pakistan’s request.
The SAARC Secretariat was formally established on 16 January 1987, while it commenced its duties on 1 December of the same year. Since then, it has been functioning as the main administrative arm of SAARC assisting member states in implementing various activities under SAARC programmes and projects; providing secretarial services for meetings of Councils and Committees; acting as a channel of communication between SAARC and other regional/ international organisations; and assisting in research work related to regional cooperation within SAARC.
Objectives of SAARC
The objective of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is to bring prosperity within the region by promoting the welfare of the people, improving the quality of life, integrating with the world, and maintaining peace. One of the main objectives of SAARC is to provide a platform for governments in South Asia to collaborate on matters of mutually beneficial interest.
With a vision of a prosperous and peaceful South Asia, and working towards the elimination of poverty and successful implementation of development, the SAARC was founded. The SAARC Secretariat is in Kathmandu, which can be reached by road, air or train.
The principal organs of the SAARC are:
- The Heads of State or Government
The Summit is held once a year. The Heads of State or Government (also known as the Council of Ministers) of the SAARC member states participate in the Summit.
- Council of Ministers
The Council of Ministers meets immediately after each annual Summit. It comprises the member states’ foreign ministers (or other ministers who may be authorised by their respective Heads of State or Government). The Council of Ministers is required to approve decisions on matters within the purview of the Charter on which consensus has been reached at the Summit. It also meets periodically between summits to review and guide the implementation of programmes and activities involving technical cooperation.
- Standing Committee
The Standing Committee meets at least two times a year and comprises senior officials designated by member governments to oversee and direct the functioning of SAARC. The Committee monitors, reviews and evaluates activities undertaken under SAARC auspices, provides guidance for future activities, and facilitates implementation.
The Secretariat is responsible for preparing for and servicing meetings, undertaking research studies, collecting data and information, disseminating information about activities undertaken by member states, preparing reports on various aspects of regional cooperation, initiating proposals for consideration by concerned bodies on matters relating to regional cooperation.
India & SAARC
India has made progress in building a connected and integrated South Asia. India’s basic principles of peace guide India’s foreign policy, cooperation and development. Our vision for South Asia is based on a promise to work together to build a region in which all countries enjoy peace, prosperity, equality, democracy, and sustainable development. The Government is committed to early implementing all decisions taken at the 18th SAARC Summit in Kathmandu in November 2014.
India firmly believes that the progress and prosperity of South Asia can be achieved through regional cooperation within SAARC. Increased intra-regional trade will help meet the growing demands of our people for goods, services, and technology and create jobs and enhance incomes. A connected and integrated South Asia will also facilitate greater people-to-people exchanges through enhanced connectivity, including air links and railways, and through greater cultural exchanges that will promote peace, harmony and understanding between our peoples.
The Government is committed to early implementing all decisions taken at the 18th SAARC Summit in Kathmandu in November 2014.
SAARC is seen as a cultural, economic and educational entity. It is likely that if SAARC is allowed to develop naturally, it will fulfil its potential and make significant contributions to a sense of enduring peace in the region. Greater integration between SAARC member countries is possible and beneficial, especially in a region as volatile as South Asia. Cooperation and development, not extremism and violence, should be the goal. As people of South Asia, we have so much potential towards being a prosperous region for everyone to enjoy.