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The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Essay Sample

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The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Essay Sample

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is an organisation of South Asian nations, which was established on 8 December 1985 when the government of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka formally adopted its charter providing for the promotion of economic and social progress, cultural development within the South Asia region and also for friendship and cooperation with other developing countries.It is dedicated to economic, technological, social, and cultural development of the member nations.

Its seven founding members are Sri Lanka, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Afghanistan joined the organization in 2007. Roughly covering a population of 1.47 billion SAARC is the largest regional organisation in the world.


The first concrete proposal for establishing a framework for regional cooperation in South Asia was made by the late president of Bangladesh, Ziaur Rahman, on May 2, 1980. Prior to this, the idea of regional cooperation in South Asia was discussed in at least three conferences: * The Asian Relations Conference in New Delhi in April 1947 * The Baguio Conference in the Philippines in May 1950

* The Colombo Powers Conference in April 1954.

In the late 1970s, SAARC nations agreed upon the creation of a trade bloc consisting of South Asian countries. The idea of regional cooperation in South Asia was mooted in May 1980. This was followed by a meeting of the Committee of the Whole in Colombo in August-September, 1981. The Integrated Programme of Action (IPA) was endorsed in a Foreign Secretary meeting held at Dhaka in August 1982. The IPA identified eleven areas of cooperation – agriculture, communications, Education-culture-sports, environment and meteorology, health and population activities, prevention of drug trafficking and drug abuse, rural development, science and technology, tourism, transport, and women in development. The Foreign Ministers of South Asia, at their first meeting in New Delhi in August 1983, adopted the Declaration on South Asian Regional Cooperation (SARC) and formally launched the Integrated Programme of Action (IPA) initially in five agreed areas of cooperation namely:

* Agriculture
* RuralDevelopment
* Telecommunications
* Meteorology
* Health and Population Activities.
Other areas of cooperation like Sports, Arts and Culture, Planning and Development were included in the subsequent Summits and Meetings.

The Heads of State of Governmentadopted the Charter at their First SAARC Summit held in Dhaka on 7-8 December 1985 formally establishing the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).



* To promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia andto improve their quality of life. * To accelerate economic growth, social progress andcultural development in the region and to provide allindividuals the opportunity to live in dignity and to realize their full potential. * To promote and strengthen collective 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 cooperation with other developing countries. * To strengthen cooperation among themselves ininternational forums on matters of common interests. * To cooperate with international and regionalorganisations with similar aims and purposes.


* Cooperation within the framework of the Association isbased on respect for the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, political independence, non-interference in the internal affairs of other States and mutual benefit. * Such cooperation is to complement and not to substitutebilateral or multilateral cooperation. * Such cooperation should be consistent with bilateral andmultilateral obligations of Member States.


* Decisions at all levels in SAARC are to be taken on the basis of unanimity. * Bilateral and contentious issues are to be excluded fromthe deliberations of the Association.


According to Charter Signed by the Member Nations of the SAARC, the heads of state or government are required to meet once a year. This meeting is known as a ‘Summit’. The First Summit was organised in the year 1985 in Bangladesh. Since then Summits have been conducted approximately every 18 months. The next SAARC Summit is scheduled in May, 2013 in Kathmandu, Nepal. However there’s an uncertainty as to the 2013 Summit due to political turmoil in Nepal and Maldives. The Chronological List of the Summits conducted in the last 27 years is listed in the table below. SAARC SUMMITS (1985-2013)


The Twelfth Summit meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) took place Islamabad, Pakistan on 4-6 January 2004. The representatives from various nations were:
1. The Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Begum Khaleda Zia 2. The Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bhutan, Lyonpo Jigmi Yoezer Thinley 3. The Prime Minister of the Republic of India, Atal Behari Vajpayee 4. The President of the Republic of Maldives, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom 5. The Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Nepal, Surya Bahadur Thapa 6. The Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali 7. The President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga:

The 12th Summit could be considered as one of the most successful and influential summits in the history of SAARC. * The signing of the Framework Agreement on the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) was a major milestone. * The year 2005 was declared as the “South Asian Tourism Year”. * The Plan of Action on Poverty Alleviation, prepared by the meeting of Finance and Planning Ministers in Islamabad in 2002, was approved in this summit. * Recommended the establishment of a Regional Food Bank for which a concept paper should be prepared. * The year 2004 was declared as the “SAARC Awareness Year for TB and HIV/AIDS”. * The commissioning of the work on drafting a Regional Environment Treaty was entrusted in this summit. * Institution of the SAARC Award was inaugurated. The Award will honour and encourage outstanding individuals and organizations within the region in the fields of peace, development, poverty alleviation, and in other areas of regional cooperation.

South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA)

SAPTA 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 realization 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 1stJuly 2006. Following the Agreement coming into force the SAFTA Ministerial Council (SMC) has been established comprising the Commerce Ministers of the Member States. To assist the SMC, a SAFTA Committee of Experts (SCOE) has been formed. SCOE is expected to submit its report to SMC every six months. The exports under SAFTA have been witnessing considerable upward trend since the launching of the Trade Liberalisation Programme (TLP).

As indicated above, the figure of total exports under SAFTA has reached about US$ 1.3 billion but is still far below the potential. For smooth functioning of the SAFTA, customs notifications for implementing Trade Liberalisation Programme (TLP) are issued as per the agreed timeline by the Member States. Efforts are made to take out those products out of the Sensitive Lists that are of export interests to the SAARC Member States for trade within South Asia.


Thirteenth Summit meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was conducted in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 12 – 13 November 2005. Representatives of the Member Nations:
1. The Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Her Excellency Begum Khaleda Zia 2. The Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bhutan, His Excellency Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup 3. The Prime Minister of the Republic of India, His Excellency Dr. Manmohan Singh 4. The President of the Republic of Maldives, His Excellency Mr. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom 5. The King of Nepal, His Majesty Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev 6. The Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, His Excellency Mr. Shaukat Aziz 7. The President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Her Excellency Mrs. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga

The Thirteenth Summit gave its main attention to eradication of poverty from the Member Nations and the South Asian region. * The decade of 2006-2015 was declared as the “SAARC Decade of Poverty Alleviation”. During the Decade, endeavours – both at the national and regional level – were made with a sense of commitment and urgency to free South Asia from poverty. * The Heads of State or Government signed the following Agreements during the thirteenth SAARC Summit: * The Agreement on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Customs Matters * The Agreement on the Establishment of SAARC Arbitration Council * The Limited Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation and Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters. * The scope of SAFTA was expanded to include trade in services, enhanced investment and harmonized standards * It was agreed that the SAARC Member States would work closely together to coordinate their positions in the on-going negotiations of the WTO on trade and other key economic issues.



After India adopted the policy of NSR (National Self Reliance) in order to remove dependence on foreign aid, India took the next step of forming SAARC along with the 6 neighbouring countries. This step has helped India develop good and cordial relationship with its neighbouring countries in all aspects i.e. socially politically and economically. After SAARC being formed by India along with 6 of its neighbouring countries, India has been able to develop trade relations with all the SAARC members. India had the chairmanship of SAARC during the year 1996-97. India hosted the 17th session of the SAARC council of ministers at New Delhi in 1996. 14th SAARC summit was the last Summit to be held in New Delhi.

India has cooperated actively in SAARC activities and vigorously promoted trade and other forms of economic, social and technical cooperation within SAARC. India also actively supports people-to-people initiatives aimed at fostering greater mutual understanding and goodwill in the region.

India is the only SAARC member that shares land borders with four members and sea borders with two. No other SAARC country shares a common border with each other. In terms of trade, commerce, investments etc, India is a source of potential investments and technology, and a major market for products from all other SAARC members .

One of the foremost challenges facing South Asia is the issue of poverty eradication. At the Twelfth Summit held in Islamabad in January 2004, India offered to contribute US$ 100 million for Poverty Alleviation projects in SAARC countries (outside India). India has additionally offered to finance feasibility projects in SAARC countries in this regard. India has granted the highest number of tariff concessions to all SAARC MEMBERS.

SAARC has failed to resolve disputes between India and Pakistan (especially the Kashmir Issue). The progress of SAARC was limited for some years due to the absence of cordial relationship between India and Pakistan. SAARC’S inability to play a crucial role in integrating South Asia is often credited to the political and military rivalry between India and Pakistan. However during Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit to Islamabad (for the 12th SAARC summit) Pakistan persuaded India to resume talks about maintenance of peace and the stalled composite dialogue, while India received assurances that Pakistan would not allow its territory to be a hub for terrorist activities. At present India’s export to Pakistan are limited. For example in the year 2001-2002 India’s total exports were $44 billion out of which a mere $204million went to Pakistan. On the other hand, India’s exports to Bangladesh stood at $ 930 million and exports to Sri Lanka at $662 million.

Pakistan has to pay heavy price for importing goods from other countries except India. India’s exports suffer due to non availability of neighbouring market. Along with India and Pakistan, other countries of SAARC are likely to get many benefits because of improved INDO – PAK relations. In the recent Indo-Pak dialogue process, there were no winners and losers. The real winners were the people of South Asia.

SAARC had failed to resolve conflicts between India and Pakistan. There is discontent still between both the countries. SAARC has yet to become an effective regional organization, largely because of mutual distrust between India and its neighbours. Also India’s lukewarm support for SAARC stems from the concern that its neighbours might coalesce against it to the detriment of Indian interests. The reluctance of India and other South Asian countries to turn SAARC into a forum for resolving major regional disputes hampers SAARC’S ability to deal with many of South Asia’s economic and political problems

SAARC is structured in a way that often makes regional cooperation difficult. Thomas Thornton argues that in regional organizations it is difficult for “countries to establish balanced relations when one has a significant advantage in power over the other states.” In the case of SAARC, India is the most powerful country in terms of its economic might, military power and international influence. Thus, India’s potential as a regional hegemony gives SAARC a unique dynamic compared to an organization such as ASEAN. Pakistan was initially reluctant to join SAARC due to fears of SAARC succumbing to Indian hegemony. Indeed, if India does take a prominent role in SAARC, it could further fears that India will use SAARC for hegemonic purposes. While the smaller states in South Asia recognize that they will need India’s help to facilitate faster economic growth, they are reluctant to work with India, fearing that such cooperation will admit Indian dominance in SAARC

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