All about SAARC



  • G.S. Paper II, III
  • International organisations



  • The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was established with the signing of the SAARC Charter in Dhaka on 8 December 1985.
  • The Secretariat of the Association was set up in Kathmandu on 17 January 1987.
  • SAARC comprises 3% of the world’s area, 21% of the world’s population and 3.8% of the global economy, as of 2015.
  • SAARC maintains permanent diplomatic relations at the United Nationsas an observer


  • SAARC comprises of eight Member States: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
  • Initially, there were 7 members. In 2007, Afghanistan joined as the 8thmember.

Observer members of SAARC:

  • States with observer status include Australia, China, the European Union, Iran, Japan, Mauritius, Myanmar, South Korea and the United States.
  • Russia and Turkey have applied for observer members of SAARC

The objectives of the Association as outlined in the SAARC Charter are:

  1. i)                    to promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and to improve their quality of life;
  2. ii)                   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 potentials;

iii)                 to promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia;

  1. iv)                 to contribute to mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another’s problems;
  2. v)                  to promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields;
  3. vi)                 to strengthen cooperation with other developing countries;

vii)               to strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums on matters of common interests; and

viii)              to cooperate with international and regional organizations with similar aims and purposes.


South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA)

  • SAFTA was established with a view to promote stronger economic cooperation amongst the SAARC members.
  • It was the first step for the transition of an FTA to Customs Union, Common Market and finally the Economic Union.
  • 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 Liberalisation Programme commenced from 1 July 2006.
  • The intra-SAARC trade amounts to just a little over 1% of SAARC’s GDP.
  • In contrast to SAARC, in ASEAN (which is actually smaller than SAARC in terms of the size of the economy) the intra-bloc trade stands at 10% of its GDP.
  • As per a study by the Asian Development Bank, it has been estimated that inter-regional trade in SAARC region possessed the potential of shooting up agricultural exports by $14 billion per year from existing level of $8 billion to $22 billion.

Disaster management

  • South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Disaster Management Centre (SDMC-IU) has been set up at Gujarat Institute of Disaster Management (GIDM) Campus, Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India.

Political Issues:

  • The 19th SAARC summit scheduled to be held in Pakistan was called off as India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan decided to boycott it.
  • It was for the first time that four countries boycotted a SAARC summit, leading to its cancellation.
  • The reason for cancellation: India and other countries alleged “cross-border terrorist attacks in the region” by Pakistan, particularly Uri attack.
  • Forward movement in SAARC has come to a standstill because of the tension between India and Pakistan



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