The concept of setting up a regional co-operational in the South Asian Region was first mooted by the late President of Bangladesh, Ziaur-Rahman on May 2, 1980. Before this, the idea of regional cooperation in South Asia was discussed in conferences of Asian Regional conference, New Delhi in April 1947, the Baguio Conference in Philippines in May 1950, and the Colombo Power Conference in April 1954.
further in the late 70s, SAARC nations agreed to create a trade bloc consisting of South Asian countries. The idea of regional cooperation in South Asia was again mooted in May 1980as a result, the foreign secretaries of the seven countries met for the first time in Colombo in April 1981. The Committee of the Whole, which met in Colombo in August 1985, identified five broad areas for regional cooperation.
New areas of cooperation were added in the following years. Hence the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was created in 1985 with eight member countries in SAARC namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It also has nine observers, namely China, EU, Iran, Republic of Korea, Australia, Japan, Mauritius, Myanmar and USA.
The objectives 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 realize 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 cooperation with other developing countries; * to strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums on matters of common interest; and * to cooperate with international and regional organisations with similar aims and purposes. The principles of SAARC are: * 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 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 Economic Agenda of SAARC The main economic agenda of SAARC include:
a) SAARC Preferential Trading Agreement (SAPTA) The Agreement on SAPTA was signed on 11 April 1993 and entered into force on 7 December 1995. The Agreement envisaged promoting and sustaining mutual trade and economic cooperation within the SAARC region through exchange of concessions. b) South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) The Agreement on SAFTA was signed on 6 January 2004 during the Twelfth SAARC Summit in Islamabad. The Agreement entered into force on 1 January 2006. c) South Asian Economic Union The Eleventh Summit (Kathmandu, 4-6 January 2002) provided further impetus to the regional economic cooperation to give effect to the shared aspirations for a more prosperous South Asia.
At the Summit, the leaders agreed to accelerate cooperation in the core areas of trade, finance and investment to realise the goal of an integrated South Asian economy in a step-by-step manner. They also agreed to the vision of a phased and planned process eventually leading to a South Asian Economic Union. Economic Profile of the SAARC Member Countries In Afghanistan, real domestic product (GDP) is estimated to have reached 13. 9% in FY2007, owing to a strong recovery in agricultural production. Industry and services recorded dynamic growth of 13. 3% and 12. 4%, respectively. Construction was the main driver of industrial growth. In Bangladesh, GDP growth in FY2007 (ended June 2007) stood at 6.
5% underpinned by steady expansion in manufacturing and continued buoyancy in services, on the base of rising domestic and external demand. Secretariat of SAARC The Secretariat of SAARC is located in Kathmandu has been established on 16 January 1987 inaugurated by Late King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah of Nepal headed by a Secretary General. The Secretary General is appointed by the Council of Ministers from Member Countries in alphabetical order for a term of three-years assisted by the Professional and the General Services Staff, and also an appropriate number of functional units called Divisions assigned to Directors on deputation from Member States.
The Secretariat has been entrusted with the function of coordination and monitoring the implementation of activities, arranging for meetings, and serveing as a channel of communication between the Association and its Member States as well as other regional organizations. The setting up of SAARC Secretariat involved inking a Memorandum of Understanding between the Foreign Ministers of member countries on 17 November 1986 at Bangalore, India which contained various clauses concerning the role, structure and administration of the SAARC Secretariat as well as the powers of the Secretary-General. Regional Centres of SAARC There are various regional centres established by SAARC Secretariat in member states so as to ensure smooth working of the SAARC functions.
The regional Centres covering Agriculture, Tuberculosis, Documentation, Meteorological research, and Human Resource Development have been established in different SAARC capitals: SAIC (Dhaka, 1998) STC (Kathmandu, 1992) SDC (New Delhi, 1994) SMRC (Dhaka, 1995) SHRDC (Islamabad, 1999) SCC (Kandy, 2004) SCZMC (Male, 2004) and SIC (Kathmandu, 2004). In addition, three new regional centres covering Culture, Coastal Zones Management, and Information are being established. India- SAARC Relationship The countries of South Asia were compelled to forge a regional grouping due to universal realization among the third world countries. – india with her experience of initial efforts to organize the Asian community & the conflicts in the region welcomed the initiative of Bangladesh in 1980. for an association of south Asian namely India, Pakistan, Sri lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives.
– SAARC provides a platform for the peoples of south asia to work together in a spirit of friendship , trust & understanding . – it aims to accelerated the process of economic & social development in member states. – the initial years of SAARC were marked by significant political developments in the world culminating in the demise of cold war & the disremberment of the soviet union. – therefore, when the proposal for the regional co-operation was made by bangladesh india could not reject the proposal. – as this regional cooperation could play a useful role in india’s own regional policy. – india is the biggest with sharing the borders with all 6 countries of the region. – from politicla to economic level, india & its neighbors have many disputes.
– inida is also having the stable democracy, has a strong military machine, a large scientific & technical manpower & a vast industries infrastructure makes it different from other countries. – the end of cold war has provided greater leeway to india to promote her perception of south Africa regionalism through SAARC. – india has become the heart of saarc & in fact constitutes the major source of both GDP, trade & capital flows within saarc/region. – the reluctance of india & other south asian countries to turn saarc into forum for resolving major regional disputes hampers saarc ability to deal with many of the south asia’s economic & political problems.