Prospect & Problem / Achievement & Problems
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 cooperation with other developing countries. It is dedicated to economic, technological, social, and cultural development emphasising collective self-reliance. Its seven founding members are Sri Lanka, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Afghanistan joined the organization 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 cooperation in South Asia was made by the late president of Bangladesh, Ziaur Rahman, on May 2, 1980. Prior to this, the idea of regional cooperation 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 cooperation in South Asia was again mooted in May 1980. The foreign secretaries 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 cooperation. New areas of cooperation were added in the following years.
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, 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. 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. On 4 March 2008, Iran requested observer status. Followed shortly by the entrance of Mauritius. Myanmar has expressed interest in upgrading it's status from an observer to a full member of SAARC, while Russia is interested in becoming an observer.
Achievements of SAARC?
South Asian Free Trade Area
Over the years, the SAARC members have expressed their unwillingness on signing a free trade agreement. Though India has several trade pacts with Maldives, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka, similar trade agreements with Pakistan and Bangladesh have been stalled due to political and economic concerns on both sides. In 1993, SAARC countries signed an agreement to gradually lower tariffs within the region, in Dhaka. Eleven years later, at the 12th SAARC Summit at Islamabad, SAARC countries devised the South Asia Free Trade Agreement which created a framework for the establishment of a free trade area covering 1.6 billion people. This agreement went into force on January 1, 2008. Under this agreement, SAARC...
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