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South Asia Association for Regional
Logo of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
  Member states
  Observer states
HeadquartersNepal Kathmandu, Nepal
Official languages English
Demonym South Asian
 -  Secretary General Ahmed Saleem
 -  Summit Presidency Template:Flagu
Establishment 8 December 1985
 -  Total 5,130,746 km2 (7tha)
1,980,992 sq mi
 -  2009 estimate 1,600,000,000 (1sta)
 -  Density 304.9/km2
789.7/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2009 estimate
 -  Total US$4,382,700 million (3rda)
 -  Per capita US$2,779
Time zone (UTC+4½ to +6)
a. If considered as a single entity.
b. A unified currency has been proposed.

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 co-operation with other developing countries. It is dedicated to economic, technological, social, and cultural development emphasising collective self-reliance. Afghanistan joined the organisation in 2007. Meetings of heads of state are usually scheduled annually; meetings of foreign secretaries, twice annually. It is headquartered in Kathmandu, Nepal.


The first concrete proposal for establishing a framework for regional co-operation in South Asia was made by the late president of Bangladesh, Ziaur Rahman, on 2 May 1980. Prior to this, the idea of regional co-operation 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, and 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 co-operation in South Asia was again mooted in May 1980. The foreign ministers 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 co-operation. New areas of co-operation were added in the following years.[1] It was having 7 members Afghanistan joined in as the 8th member in year 2007.

SAARC Charter

  • Desirous of promoting peace, stability, amity and progress in the region through strict adherence to the principles of the UNITED NATIONS CHARTER and NON-ALIGNMENT, particularly respect for the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, national independence, non-use of force and non-interference in the internal affairs of other States and peaceful settlement of all disputes.
  • Conscious that in an increasingly interdependent world, the objectives of peace, freedom, social justice and economic prosperity are best achieved in the SOUTH ASIAN region by fostering mutual understanding, good neighbourly relations and meaningful co-operation among the Member States which are bound by ties of history and culture.
  • Aware of the common problems, interests and aspirations of the peoples of SOUTH ASIA and the need for joint action and enhanced co-operation within their respective political and economic systems and cultural traditions.
  • Convinced that regional co-operation among the countries of SOUTH ASIA is mutually beneficial, desirable and necessary for promoting the welfare and improving the quality of life of the peoples of the region.
  • Convinced further that economic, social and technical co-operation among the countries of SOUTH ASIA would contribute significantly to national and collective self-reliance.
  • Recognising that increased co-operation, contacts and exchanges among the countries of the region will contribute to the promotion of friendship and understanding among their peoples.
  • Recalling the DECLARATION signed by their Foreign Ministers in NEW DELHI on 2 August 1983 and noting the progress achieved in regional co-operation.
  • Reaffirming their determination to promote such co-operation within an institutional framework.[2]

Objectives Of SAARC

The objectives and the aims of the Association as defined in the Charter are:[3]

  • 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 realise 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 co-operation with other developing countries;
  • to strengthen co-operation among themselves in international forums on matters of common interest; and
  • to co-operate with international and regional organisations with similar aims and purposes.
  • to maintain peace in the region


The principles are as follows

  • 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

Afghanistan was added to the regional grouping on April 2007,[4] With the addition of Afghanistan, the total number of member states were raised to eight (8). In April 2006, the United States of America and South Korea made formal requests to be granted observer status. The European Union has also indicated interest in being given observer status, and made a formal request for the same to the SAARC Council of Ministers meeting in July 2006.[5][6] On 2 August 2006 the foreign ministers of the SAARC countries agreed in principle to grant observer status to the US, South Korea and the European Union.[6] On 4 March 2008, Iran requested observer status.[7] Followed shortly by the entrance of Mauritius. Myanmar has expressed interest in upgrading its status from an observer to a full member of SAARC,[8] while Russia is interested in becoming an observer.[9][10]


The SAARC Secretariat was established in Kathmandu on 16 January 1987 and was inaugurated by Late King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah of Nepal.

It is headed by the Secretary General appointed by the Council of Ministers from Member Countries in an alphabetical order for a three-year term. He is assisted by the Professional and the General Service Staff, and also an appropriate number of functional units called Divisions assigned to Directors on deputation from Member States.[11] The Secretariat coordinates and monitors implementation of activities, prepares for and services meetings, and serves as a channel of communication between the Association and its Member States as well as other regional organisations.[11]

The Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of the Secretariat[11] which was signed by Foreign Ministers of member countries on 17 November 1986 at Bangalore, India contains various clauses concerning the role, structure and administration of the SAARC Secretariat as well as the powers of the Secretary-General.

In several recent meetings the heads of state or government of member states of SAARC have taken some important decisions and bold initiatives to strengthen the organisation and to widen and deepen regional co-operation.

The SAARC Secretariat and Member States observe 8 December as the SAARC Charter Day1.

Council of Ministers

  • Council of Ministers consisting of the Foreign Ministers of the Member States established with the following functions:
  • Formulation of the policies of the ASSOCIATION
  • Review of the progress of co-operation under the ASSOCIATION
  • Decision on new areas of co-operation
  • Establishment of additional mechanism under the ASSOCIATION as deemed necessary
  • Decision on other matters of general interest to the ASSOCIATION.

The Council of Ministers meets twice a year. Extraordinary session of the Council may be held by agreement among the Member States.

Regional Centres

The SAARC Secretariat is supported by following Regional Centres established in Member States to promote regional co-operation. These Centres are managed by Governing Boards comprising representatives from all the Member States, SAARC Secretary-General and the Ministry of Foreign/External Affairs of the Host Government. The Director of the Centre acts as Member Secretary to the Governing Board which reports to the Programming Committee.

  • SAARC Agricultural Centre (SAC), Dhaka
  • SAARC Meteorological Research Centre (SMRC), Dhaka
  • SAARC Tuberculosis Centre (STC), Kathmandu
  • SAARC Documentation Centre (SDC), New Delhi
  • SAARC Human Resources Development Centre (SHRDC), Islamabad
  • SAARC Coastal Zone Management Centre (SCZMC), Maldives
  • SAARC Information Centre (SIC), Nepal
  • SAARC Energy Centre (SEC), Pakistan
  • SAARC Disaster Management Centre (SDMC), India
  • SAARC Development Fund (SDF), Bhutan
  • SAARC Forestry Centre (SFC), Bhutan
  • SAARC Cultural Centre (SCC), Sri Lanka[12]

Apex and Recognised Bodies

SAARC has six Apex Bodies,[13] namely, SAARC Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCI), SAARCLAW (South Asian Association For Regional Cooperation In Law),[14] South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA), South Asia Foundation (SAF), South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC), Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature (FOSWAL)

Hemant Batra is the current incumbent Secretary General of SAARCLAW.

SAARC also has about 17 recognised bodies.[13]

Political issues

The dispute over Kashmir’s accession to India has been standing in the way of the lasting peace and prosperity of the Indian subcontinent.[15] While awarding the European Union with the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee stated that " war between Germany and France is unthinkable. This shows how, through well-aimed efforts and by building up mutual confidence, historical enemies can become close partners."[16] Southern Asia can become unified just as Europe has become unified as the European Union. Political dialogue is often conducted on the margins of SAARC meetings which have refrained from interfering in the internal matters of its member states. During the 12th and 13th SAARC summits, extreme emphasis was laid upon greater co-operation between the SAARC members to fight terrorism.

South Asian Free Trade Area

SAFTA 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 realisation 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 1 July 2006. Under this agreement, SAARC members will bring their duties down to 20 per cent by 2009. Following the Agreement coming into force the SAFTA Ministerial Council (SMC) has been established comprising the Commerce Ministers of the Member States.[17]

SAARC Visa Exemption Scheme

The SAARC Visa Exemption Scheme was launched in 1992. The leaders at the Fourth Summit (Islamabad, 29–31 December 1988), while realising the importance of having people to people contacts, among the peoples of SAARC countries, decided that certain categories of dignitaries should be entitled to a Special Travel document, which would exempt them from visas within the region. As directed by the Summit, the Council of Ministers regularly kept under review the list of entitled categories. Currently the list included 24 categories of entitled persons, which include Dignitaries, Judges of higher courts, Parliamentarians, Senior Officials, Businessmen, Journalists, Sportsmen etc. The Visa Stickers are issued by the respective Member States to the entitled categories of that particular country. The validity of the Visa Sticker is generally for one year. The implementation is reviewed regularly by the Immigration Authorities of SAAR Member States.[18]


The Twelfth Summit (Islamabad, January 2004) approved the institution of the SAARC Award to honour and encourage outstanding individuals and organisations within the region. The main objectives of the SAARC Award are:

  • To encourage individuals and organisations based in South Asia to undertake programmes and activities complementing the efforts of SAARC
  • To encourage individuals and organisations in South Asia contributing to the improvement of the conditions of women and children
  • To honour outstanding contributions and achievements of individuals and organisations within the region in the fields of peace, development, poverty alleviation, environment protection and regional co-operation making the SAARC Award the most prestigious Award in the region; and
  • To honour any other outstanding contributions and achievements, not covered above, of individuals and organisations in the region.

The SAARC Award comprises a gold medal, a letter of citation and cash prize of US $ 25,000. Since institution of SAARC Award in 2004, it has been awarded only once and the Award was posthumoulsy conferred upon Late President Ziaur Rahman of Bangladesh.[19]

SAARC Youth Award

The SAARC Youth Award is awarded to outstanding individuals from the SAARC region. The award is notable due to the recognition it gives to the Award winner in the SAARC region. The award is based on specific themes which apply to each year. The award recognises and promotes the commitment and talent of the youth who give back to the world at large through various initiatives such as Inventions, Protection of the Environment and Disaster relief. The recipients who receive this award are ones who have dedicated their lives to their individual causes to improve situations in their own countries as well as paving a path for the SAARC region to follow. The Committee for the SAARC Youth Award selects the best candidate based on his/her merits and their decision is final.

Previous Winners:

  • 1997: Outstanding Social Service in Community Welfare – Mr. Md. Sukur Salek (Bangladesh)
  • 1998: New Inventions and Shanu – Dr. Najmul Hasnain Shah (Pakistan)
  • 2001: Creative Photography: South Asian Diversity – Mr. Mushfiqul Alam (Bangladesh)
  • 2002: Outstanding contribution to protect the Environment – Dr. Masil Khan (Pakistan)
  • 2003: Invention in the Field of Traditional Medicine – Mr. Hassan Sher (Pakistan)
  • 2004: Outstanding contribution to raising awareness for TB and/or HIV/AIDS – Mr. Ajij Prasad Poudyal (Nepal)
  • 2006: Promotion of Tourism in South Asia – Mr. Syed Zafar Abbas Naqvi (Pakistan)
  • 2008: Protecting the Environment in South Asia – Ms. Uswatta Liyanage Deepani Jayantha (Sri Lanka)
  • 2009: Outstanding contribution to humanitarian works in the aftermath of Natural Disasters – Dr. Ravikant Singh (India)
  • 2010: Outstanding contribution for the Protection of Environment and mitigation of Climate Change – Ms. Anoka Primrose Abeyrathne (Sri Lanka)

Members of SAARC

Template:Supranational Asian Bodies

Current members

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  • Template:Flagu[20]
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Potential future members

  • Template:Flagu has expressed interest in upgrading its status from an observer to a full member of SAARC. Supported by Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka.
  • Template:Flagu has expressed interest in upgrading its status from an observer to a full member of SAARC.[8]
  • Template:Flagu has expressed interest in becoming an observer of SAARC. Supported By India.[9][10]


  • Template:Flagu has participated in meetings.[24]

Secretaries-General of SAARC

Bangladesh Abul Ahsan 16 January 1985 to 15 October 1989
India Kishore Kant Bhargava 17 October 1989 to 31 December 1991
Maldives Ibrahim Hussain Zaki 1 January 1992 to 31 December 1993
Nepal Yadav Kant Silwal 1 January 1994 to 31 December 1995
Pakistan Naeem U. Hasan 1 January 1996 to 31 December 1998
Sri Lanka Nihal Rodrigo 1 January 1999 to 10 January 2002
Bangladesh Q.A.M.A. Rahim 11 January 2002 to 28 February 2005
Bhutan Lyonpo Chenkyab Dorji 1 March 2005 to 29 February 2008
India Sheel Kant Sharma 1 March 2008 to 28 February 2011
Maldives Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed 1 March 2011 to 11 March 2012
Maldives Ahmed Saleem 12 March 2012 to present[25]

SAARC summits

No Date Country Host Host leader
1st 7–8 December 1985 Template:Flagu Dhaka Ataur Rahman Khan
2nd 16–17 November 1986 Template:Flagu Bangalore Rajiv Gandhi
3rd 2–4 November 1987 Template:Flagu Kathmandu Marich Man Singh Shrestha
4th 29–31 December 1988 Template:Flagu Islamabad Benazir Bhutto
5th 21–23 November 1990 Template:Flagu Malé Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
6th 21 December 1991 Template:Flagu Colombo Ranasinghe Premadasa
7th 10–11 April 1993 Template:Flagu Dhaka Khaleda Zia
8th 2–4 May 1995 Template:Flagu New Delhi P. V. Narasimha Rao
9th 12–14 May 1997 Template:Flagu Malé Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
10th 29–31 July 1998 Template:Flagu Colombo Chandrika Kumaratunga
11th 4–6 January 2002 Template:Flagu Kathmandu Sher Bahadur Deuba
12th 2–6 January 2004 Template:Flagu Islamabad Zafarullah Khan Jamali
13th 12–13 November 2005 Template:Flagu Dhaka Khaleda Zia
14th 3–4 April 2007 Template:Flagu New Delhi Manmohan Singh
15th 1–3 August 2008 Template:Flagu Colombo Mahinda Rajapaksa
16th 28–29 April 2010 Template:Flagu Thimphu Jigme Thinley
17th 10–11 November 2011[26] Template:Flagu Addu Mohammed Nasheed
18th 2013[27] Template:Flagu Kathmandu Khil Raj Regmi

Current leaders

Image Title of government Country
Hamid Karzai President Template:Flagu
Sheikh Hasina Prime Minister Template:Flagu

Tshering Tobgay
Prime Minister Template:Flagu
Nawaz Sharif Prime Minister Template:Flagu
Manmohan Singh Prime Minister Template:Flagu
Mohammed Waheed Hassan President Template:Flagu

Khil Raj Regmi
Prime Minister Template:Flagu
Mahinda Rajapaksa President Template:Flagu

See also

SAARC portal


External links

  • Internet Mapping for SAARC
  • Digital Atlas of SAARC by oopslite technologies
  • SAARC Youth
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