The SAARC- South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation was established by seven Asian countries on 8 December, 1985. Stressing on collective self-reliance, it focuses on achieving economic, technological, social, and cultural development. In the year 1977, Bangladesh which was under the rule of President Ziaur Rahman, became the first country to embrace the concept of ‘SAARC’.
SAARC is basically an economic organization of the 8 countries of Southern Asia. Its founding members comprise India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Afghanistan joined later as its eighth member in April 2007. SAARC is the reflection of the determination of South Asian people who tried to lay a base of mutual respect, equity and shared benefits, in order to find solutions to common problems.
Headquarters of SAARC is located in Kathmandu, Nepal. Through joint action in the agreed areas of cooperation, it aims to improve economic and social development in member countries. SAARC 11 stated areas of corporations comprise agriculture, rural development, meteorology, health-population control, postal services etc.
- Promoting welfare of people of South Asia, improving their quality of life.
- SAARC aims at accelerating economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region. It allows people to live with dignity and helps them to realize their full potential.
- Promotes and strengthens collective self-reliance.
- Brings about active collaboration in the fields of economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields.
- Strengthens cooperation between developing countries.
- Improves relationships with international and regional organizations.
India is a vital member of the SAARC group, giving itself a great opportunity for expanding its export-import community for improving trade.
Every SAARC member strives hard to make their association more meaningful and successful.
- SAARC was primarily formed for integrating regional economies, so as to increase trade and improve the living standards of people living on this part of the globe.
- For enhancing intra regional trade, SAFTA (South Asia Free Trade Agreement) was designed in 2004.
- As part of the agreement, custom tariffs were reduced to 20 percent.
- Several items were slashed from the sensitive list of commodities, they were earlier banned from trading.
- The free trade agreement injected a fresh lease of life in the regional body.
With only 5 percent of trade volume, SAFTA is still at its budding stage. This is very less when compared to Intra European Union Commerce which comprises about 55 percent of trade volume. Being one of South Asia’s biggest economies, regional trade is vital for a country like India. Infact, trade relations with Pakistan have improved under the SAFTA agreement.
While SAARC conducts meetings of heads of states annually; meetings of foreign secretaries are held twice a year.
In short, ‘SAARC’ is meant for the welfare of South Asian people.