The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is an intergovernmental organization that promotes regional cooperation and integration among South Asian countries. Here is some information about SAARC:
- Establishment: SAARC was founded on December 8, 1985, in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The organization was established with the signing of the SAARC Charter by the governments of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
- Member Countries: SAARC comprises eight member countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Afghanistan became a member in 2007.
- Objectives: The primary objectives of SAARC are to promote peace, stability, and economic cooperation in the South Asian region. The organization aims to enhance the welfare of the people of South Asia, accelerate economic growth, improve the quality of life, and promote collaboration in various sectors, including trade, investment, agriculture, health, education, and culture.
- Organizational Structure: SAARC operates on the principle of consensus and decision-making through consultations. The organization has a three-tier structure, consisting of the Summit of Heads of State or Government, the Council of Ministers, and the Secretariat, which is the administrative body of SAARC located in Kathmandu, Nepal.
- Summits and Meetings: SAARC holds a summit meeting annually, where the heads of state or government of member countries come together to discuss and make decisions on regional issues. Ministerial meetings and specialized working groups are also conducted to focus on specific sectors and address relevant challenges.
- Areas of Cooperation: SAARC promotes cooperation in various areas, including trade and economic cooperation, agriculture and rural development, poverty alleviation, energy, environment, tourism, connectivity, education, health, culture, and people-to-people exchanges. The organization encourages the implementation of regional agreements and initiatives to enhance collaboration among member countries.
- Regional Agreements: SAARC has developed several regional agreements and frameworks to facilitate cooperation among member countries. These include the SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA), which aims to enhance intra-regional trade, and the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), which envisions the creation of a free trade area among SAARC member countries.
- Challenges and Progress: SAARC has faced challenges in achieving its objectives, including political differences, bilateral disputes, and regional security concerns. As a result, progress in regional cooperation has been slow in certain areas. However, SAARC has also made strides in areas such as cultural exchanges, people-to-people contacts, and humanitarian cooperation.
- Observer States and Dialogue Partners: SAARC has several observer states, including Australia, China, the European Union, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Mauritius, Myanmar, and the United States. These countries and organizations engage in dialogue with SAARC and contribute to the regional cooperation process.
- SAARC Day: SAARC Day is celebrated annually on December 8th to commemorate the signing of the SAARC Charter. On this day, member countries promote awareness about the objectives and achievements of SAARC and highlight the importance of regional cooperation in South Asia.
SAARC serves as a platform for South Asian countries to come together, foster cooperation, and address common challenges. While progress may vary in different areas, the organization continues to work towards promoting regional integration, economic development, and mutual understanding among member countries.