South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC):

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is an economic and political organization of eight countries in South Asia. The population of the member countries of this organization is (about 1.5 billion).

Objective of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC): The main objective of the organization is to work towards a common goal of achieving social, cultural, and economic development for all the people belonging to the above regions. The Regional Integrated Program covers the following aspects:-

  1. Agriculture and Rural Development
  2. Women, youth and children
  3. Health and Population Activities
  4. Science and technology and meteorology
  5. Environment and Forestry
  6. Human resource development, and
  7. Transport

Working groups have also been set up in the following areas:

  • Biotechnology
  • Information and communications technology
  • Intellectual Property Rights
  • Energy
  • Sightseeing

Quick info of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC):

Full name of SAARC South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
Foundation of SAARC 8 December 1985, Dhaka (Bangladesh)
Number of member countries in SAARC Total countries 8
Number of Observers in SAARC 9
Headquarters of SAARC Kathmandu, Nepal
Launch of SAARC Satellite for South Asia in 2017
First Secretary General of SAARC Abul Ahsan (Bangladesh)
Current Secretary General of SAARC Golam Sarwar (Bangladesh) - 4 March 2023
Last member to join SAARC Afghanistan (April 2007)
Last SAARC Summit 20th SAARC Summit in Pakistan (Planned for 2023 or 2024)

The names of the following member states in SAARC:

  • Afghanistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • India
  • Maldives
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka

Names of Observers included in SAARC:

  • South Asian University (SAU) – India
  • South Asian Regional Standards Organization (SARSO) - Dhaka
  • SAARC Development Fund (SDF) - Bhutan
  • SAARC Arbitration Council (SARCO) - Pakistan

Observer States of SAARC

  • Australia
  • China
  • European Union
  • Iran
  • Japan
  • Mauritius
  • United States of america
  • Korea

Myanmar has requested the observer to elevate its status to an integrated member state. Similarly, Turkey and Russia have also applied for membership.

History of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC):

The idea of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation was first mooted in May 1980. At that time the foreign secretaries of the then seven countries met for the first time in April 1981 in Colombo. Five major areas of potential for regional cooperation were listed and later other important areas were added over time. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation was established when its declaration was formally adopted on 8 December 1985 by the heads of government of India or Bangladesh, Maldives, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

List of Secretaries-General of SAARC (1985 - 2023)

Name of the Secretary General Term Country
Abul Ahsan 16 January 1985 to 15 October 1989 Bangladesh
K. Kishore Bhargava 17 October 1989 to 31 December 1991 India
Ibrahim Zaki 1 January 1992 to 31 December 1993 Maldives
Yadav K. silval 1 January 1994 to 31 December 1995 Nepal
Naeem Hassan From 01 January 1996 to 31 December 1998 Pakistan
Nihal Rodrigo From 01 January 1999 to 10 January 2002 Sri Lanka
Q. A. Rahim 11 January 2002 to 28 February 2005 Bangladesh
Changebe Doraji From 01 March 2005 to 29 February 2008 Bhutan
Sheel Sharma From 01 March 2008 to 28 February 2011 India
Fathimath Sayeed From 01 March 2011 to 11 March 2012 Maldives
Ahmed Saleem 12 March 2012 to 28 February 2014 Maldives
Arjun Bahadur Thapa From 01 March 2014 to 01 March 2017 Nepal
Amjad Hussain b. Sial 01 March 2017 to 31 April 2020 Pakistan
Esala Ruwan Werakon 01 March 2020 to 3 March 2023 Sri Lanka
Golam Sarwar 4 March 2023 to Present Bangladesh

Structure of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC):

The structure of SAARC is as follows:-

Council - It is the highest policy-making body. The council is represented by the heads of government of the respective member states.
Council of Ministers - The Council of Ministers consists of the Foreign Minister and they usually meet twice a year.

Functions of the Council of Ministers- (i) Policy formulation, (ii) Reviewing the progress of regional cooperation, (iii) Identifying new areas of cooperation, and (iv) Establishing additional mechanisms as required.

Functions of the Standing Committee- It includes the foreign secretaries of the member countries. The main functions of the Standing Committee are:- (i) monitoring and coordinating the programmes, (ii) dealing with the modalities of funding, and (iii) mobilizing cooperation within and outside the region. Functions of the Secretariat - It is headed by the Secretary General appointed by the Council of Ministers.

The main functions of the Secretariat are to: (i) coordinate and execute the activities undertaken by SAARC, (iii) monitor SAARC meetings, (iii) act as a communication link between SAARC and other international summits and forums, etc.  Apart from this, there are three other committees in SAARC, which include - Standing Committee, Programming Committee, Technical Committee.

Principles of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC):

  • Respect the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, political independence, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, and mutual benefit.
  • Such cooperation will not be a substitute for bilateral and multilateral cooperation, but will complement them. Such cooperation shall not be inconsistent with bilateral and multilateral obligations.

SAARC Specialized Bodies - SAARC Specialized Bodies SAARC Specialized Bodies are created by the member states of SAARC and are structured differently from the regional centres. Management is taken care of by the representatives of the member states, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the host government.

The list of specialized bodies of SAARC is as follows:

  • SAARC Arbitration Council (SARCO) - Pakistan
  • SAARC Development Fund (SDF) - Bhutan
  • South Asian University (SAU) – India
  • South Asian Regional Standards Organization (SARSO) - Dhaka

SAARC Arbitration Council (SARCO) - Pakistan

SAARC Arbitration Council was established on 25 August 2011 whose office is mandated to provide a legal framework/forum within the region for fair and efficient settlement of commercial, industrial, trade, banking, investment and such other disputes in Pakistan . It is an inter-governmental body.

SAARC Development Fund (SDF) -

Bhutan The SAARC Development Fund (SDF) was formally established during the 13th SAARC Summit in April 2010 with the primary objective of financing project-based cooperation. The SAARC Development Fund is governed by a board consisting of representatives from the finance ministries of the member states. The Governing Council of the SDF (MS Finance Minister) oversees the functioning of the Board.

South Asian Regional Standards Organization (SARSO) -

Dhaka The South Asian Regional Standards Organization (SARSO) has its secretariat in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It was established to achieve and enhance co-ordination and cooperation among SAARC member states in the areas of standardization and conformity assessment, with the objective of creating harmonized standards for the region to facilitate intra-regional trade and access to the global market.

South Asian University (SAU) -

India South Asian University (SAU) is an international university, located in India. The degrees and certificates awarded by SAUs are at par with the respective degrees and certificates awarded by national universities/institutes.

Read also:

  Last update :  Fri 8 Sep 2023
  Post Views :  16006
  Post Category :  World Politics