South Asian association for regional cooperation (SAARC) is an economic and political organization of eight countries in southern- Asia. It was established in December 8’h, 1985. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives and Afghanistan (became a member in April 2007) are the member countries. The present secretary general of SAARC is Mr. Lyonpo Chenkyab Dorgi and head quarter of SAARC is Katmandu, Nepal. It started with the aim of promotion of welfare of the people and to improve the quality of life by economic progress, social development political stability & mutual understanding or cooperation. We can also say, it is a platform for the people of South-Asian region to come together, to work in the true spirit of friendship and brotherhood.
There are five important areas of cooperation, which are as follows—
- Agriculture and rural development.
- Science, technology and telecommunication.
- Health and population activities.
- Human resources development
Possible cooperation in these areas is discussed and decisions are taken unanimously. Any problem or issues between two countries are not discussed because the cooperation is based on principles of equality, political independence, non- interference and mutual benefit. This means problems like the Kashmir issue or militancy in Sri Lanka are not discussed or commented upon though other countries may express their concern because after all, regional cooperation needs free and transparent interaction for mutual benefit of the region.
Around fourteen SAARC summits or meetings are over so far and one of important trade agreement is, south Asian free trade act (SAFTA) which was signed at Islamabad on 66 January 2004 and came into effect on I” Jan 2006. Indian has free trade with all the members except Pakistan. Reduction in custom duty was agreed upon by member countries. Mother main issue discussed was terrorism by creating awareness and suppressing finance or collection of funds for such acts. There is also a proposal in the recent meet to establish a south- Asian university and food bank.
SAARC as an organization has not been able to function to the fullest of its potential because of poor . relations of India & Pakistan. It is believed and understood by the leaders that because of increasing importance of the region, better relations can help in realizing our goals.
The SAARC has a few “observe?’ countries too who can contribute but are not part of decision making process. They arc- European Union. South Korea. Japan. China. and United States. Elections and arrival of democracy in Pakistan may change the atmosphere. SAARC must turn into a more effective and meaningful organization by better cooperation.