South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)

SAARC: South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation

South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation feed aid among South Asian nations, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and others. Established in 1985, it aims to promote economic growth, cultural ties, & regional cohesion through dialogues & drive in diverse fields like trade, agriculture, and fight terrorism.


The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) stands as a beacon of hope and cooperation in one of the most culturally diverse and economically dynamic regions of the world. Established in 1985, SAARC comprises eight member states: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Despite challenges, SAARC remains committed to fostering regional integration, economic growth, social progress, and cultural development among its member nations. In this article by Academic Block, we will explore in detail about the historical background, objectives, challenges faced by SAARC.

Historical Background

The roots of SAARC trace back to the early 1980s when the idea of regional cooperation gained momentum in South Asia. Inspired by the success of similar regional blocs like the European Economic Community, leaders in South Asia recognized the potential for collaboration to address common challenges and unlock shared opportunities. Consequently, the concept of SAARC was born, culminating in the signing of the SAARC Charter in December 1985 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Objectives and Principles

SAARC operates under a set of clear objectives and principles aimed at promoting peace, stability, and prosperity in the region. These objectives include enhancing economic cooperation, promoting social development, strengthening collective self-reliance, and fostering mutual assistance among member states. Additionally, SAARC upholds principles such as sovereign equality, territorial integrity, non-interference in internal affairs, and peaceful resolution of disputes, serving as the foundational principles guiding the organization’s activities.

Institutional Structure

The institutional structure of SAARC consists of several key bodies tasked with implementing the organization’s objectives and facilitating cooperation among member states. The apex body is the Summit, which convenes annually and provides a platform for leaders to discuss regional issues, set priorities, and make decisions. Supporting the Summit are various ministerial meetings, specialized bodies, and working groups focusing on specific areas such as trade, agriculture, health, and environment.

Challenges and Opportunities

Despite its noble aspirations, SAARC faces numerous challenges that hinder its effectiveness and impact. Chief among these challenges are political tensions and historical disputes between member states, which often impede progress and cooperation. Additionally, bureaucratic hurdles, inadequate infrastructure, and economic disparities pose significant obstacles to regional integration and development. However, amidst these challenges, SAARC also presents immense opportunities for fostering peace, stability, and prosperity in South Asia.

Economic Cooperation

Economic cooperation lies at the heart of SAARC’s agenda, with member states recognizing the potential benefits of increased trade, investment, and connectivity. Efforts to promote economic cooperation within SAARC have led to the establishment of various mechanisms such as the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), which aims to reduce tariffs and promote intra-regional trade. Despite challenges such as non-tariff barriers and logistical constraints, SAARC continues to work towards enhancing economic integration and realizing the full potential of the region’s economies.

Social Development

SAARC places significant emphasis on social development, recognizing the importance of addressing issues such as poverty, education, healthcare, and gender equality. Through initiatives such as the SAARC Social Charter and the SAARC Development Goals, member states collaborate to improve the quality of life for all citizens in the region. Additionally, SAARC promotes cultural exchanges, tourism, and people-to-people contacts to foster greater understanding and solidarity among South Asians.

Regional Security

Ensuring regional security and stability is a top priority for SAARC, given the geopolitical complexities and security challenges facing South Asia. The organization works towards promoting confidence-building measures, conflict prevention, and cooperation in areas such as counter-terrorism, border management, and maritime security. Despite occasional setbacks, SAARC remains committed to fostering a peaceful and secure environment for all member states, recognizing that security is essential for sustainable development and prosperity.

Environmental Sustainability

Environmental sustainability is another key focus area for SAARC, given the pressing challenges of climate change, natural disasters, and environmental degradation facing the region. Member states collaborate on initiatives to address these challenges through measures such as promoting renewable energy, enhancing disaster preparedness and response, and conserving biodiversity. By working together to mitigate the adverse effects of environmental degradation, SAARC seeks to safeguard the region’s natural resources and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.

Future Prospects

As SAARC enters its fourth decade, the organization faces both opportunities and challenges on its path towards deeper integration and cooperation in South Asia. While political tensions and historical disputes continue to pose obstacles, there is also growing recognition among member states of the need to overcome differences and work together for the common good. With evolving geopolitical dynamics and shifting global priorities, SAARC must adapt and innovate to remain relevant and effective in addressing the diverse needs and aspirations of the people of South Asia.

Final Words

In conclusion, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of cooperation and solidarity among the nations of South Asia. Despite challenges and setbacks, SAARC remains committed to promoting peace, stability, and prosperity in the region through economic cooperation, social development, regional security, environmental sustainability, and cultural exchange. As South Asia continues to navigate the complexities of the 21st century, SAARC serves as a beacon of hope and a symbol of unity, harnessing the collective strength and resilience of its member states to build a brighter future for all. Hope you liked this article by Academic Block, please provide your valuable thoughts to make this article better. Thanks for Reading!

This Article will answer your questions like:

+ What is the main purpose of SAARC? >

The main purpose of SAARC is to promote regional economic and social development through cooperation and integration among member states, thereby accelerating the economic growth and enhancing social progress and cultural development in South Asia.

+ What are the 8 countries in SAARC? >

The 8 countries in SAARC are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. These member states collaborate to achieve collective self-reliance and regional development.

+ What is SAARC headquarters? >

SAARC headquarters is located in Kathmandu, Nepal. It serves as the central administrative body for coordinating and implementing SAARC's regional activities and initiatives.

+ What is the motto of SAARC? >

The motto of SAARC is "Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity". This reflects the organization's commitment to fostering economic growth, social progress, and cultural development in the South Asian region.

+ What is the purpose of SAARC? >

The purpose of SAARC is to enhance regional cooperation and collaboration in economic, social, cultural, technical, and scientific fields, aiming to improve the quality of life and promote the welfare of the people in South Asia.

+ What is SAARC Summit? >

The SAARC Summit is a biennial meeting of the heads of state or government of the SAARC member countries. It provides a platform for discussion on key regional issues and the formulation of strategic policies for regional cooperation.

+ What are the objectives of SAARC? >

The objectives of SAARC include promoting welfare and improving the quality of life in South Asia, accelerating economic growth, and fostering mutual trust, understanding, and appreciation among member states through collaborative efforts.

+ What is the significance of SAARC in South Asian politics? >

SAARC holds significant influence in South Asian politics by fostering regional cooperation and addressing common political, economic, and social challenges. It aims to strengthen collective self-reliance and promote peace, stability, and economic prosperity in the region.

Structure of SAARC

Summit: The Summit is the highest decision-making body of SAARC, where heads of state or government of member countries convene biennially to discuss regional issues, set priorities, and make decisions on policies and initiatives. The Summit provides a platform for leaders to engage in dialogue and cooperation to advance the objectives of SAARC.

Council of Ministers: The Council of Ministers comprises the foreign ministers of member states and is responsible for overseeing the implementation of decisions taken at the Summit. It meets annually to review progress, address challenges, and provide guidance on policy matters related to regional cooperation and integration.

Standing Committee: The Standing Committee consists of the Foreign Secretaries of member states and serves as a coordinating body for SAARC. It meets regularly to monitor the implementation of SAARC activities, review budgetary matters, and provide guidance on policy issues to promote regional cooperation.

Programming Committee: The Programming Committee comprises senior officials from member states and is responsible for coordinating and monitoring the implementation of SAARC’s programs and projects. It helps ensure the effective utilization of resources and alignment with SAARC’s objectives across various sectors of cooperation.

Technical Committees: SAARC has several Technical Committees focusing on specific areas such as agriculture, health, education, environment, and trade. These committees comprise technical experts and officials from member states who collaborate to address sector-specific challenges, promote cooperation, and develop initiatives and projects.

Secretariat: The SAARC Secretariat, located in Kathmandu, Nepal, serves as the administrative hub of the organization. It facilitates communication, coordination, and implementation of SAARC activities, providing support to member states and coordinating with other international organizations.

Specialized Bodies: SAARC has established specialized bodies and centers to address specific regional issues and challenges. These bodies include the SAARC Development Fund (SDF), the SAARC Agriculture Centre (SAC), the SAARC Meteorological Research Centre (SMRC), and the SAARC Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS Centre (STAC).

SAARC Summit and its features

Meaning: The SAARC Summit is the highest decision-making forum of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). It is a biennial meeting where leaders of SAARC member states convene to discuss regional issues, set priorities, and make decisions aimed at advancing cooperation and integration within South Asia.

Participation: The SAARC Summit brings together the heads of state or government of all eight member countries, namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Each member state is represented by its highest-ranking official, such as the President, Prime Minister, or King.

Agenda: The Summit agenda typically covers a wide range of topics relevant to regional cooperation and development, including economic integration, trade facilitation, social development, cultural exchange, and regional security. Member states may also discuss bilateral issues and concerns on the sidelines of the Summit.

Deliberations: During the Summit, leaders engage in discussions, deliberations, and negotiations on various agenda items. They share perspectives, exchange views, and explore avenues for cooperation, guided by the principles and objectives outlined in the SAARC Charter.

Decision-Making: The SAARC Summit is where important decisions are made regarding SAARC’s policies, programs, and initiatives. Leaders may adopt declarations, resolutions, action plans, and agreements aimed at advancing the organization’s objectives and addressing regional challenges.

Bilateral Meetings: In addition to the formal Summit proceedings, leaders often use the opportunity to hold bilateral meetings on the sidelines to discuss bilateral issues, strengthen diplomatic ties, and explore opportunities for cooperation outside the SAARC framework.

Host Country: The host country of the SAARC Summit rotates among member states in alphabetical order. The host country is responsible for organizing and hosting the Summit, providing logistical support, and ensuring the smooth conduct of the meeting.

Significance of SAARC in South Asian Politics

Diplomatic Platform: SAARC provides a diplomatic platform for South Asian countries to engage in dialogue, build trust, and address mutual concerns. The regular summits and ministerial meetings offer opportunities for leaders to discuss bilateral and regional issues, fostering communication and conflict resolution.

Regional Cooperation: SAARC promotes regional cooperation and integration among member states, facilitating collaboration on a wide range of issues including trade, investment, infrastructure development, and cultural exchange. By fostering closer ties and mutual understanding, SAARC contributes to stability and prosperity in South Asia.

Conflict Resolution: SAARC provides a forum for member states to address historical disputes and regional conflicts through dialogue and diplomacy. While progress on resolving long-standing issues may be slow, the existence of a platform for engagement can help prevent escalation and build confidence for future negotiations.

Economic Integration: SAARC aims to promote economic integration and trade facilitation among member states through initiatives such as the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) and regional connectivity projects. By reducing trade barriers and promoting economic cooperation, SAARC contributes to economic growth and development in the region.

Cross-Border Challenges: SAARC addresses transnational issues such as terrorism, organized crime, and environmental degradation that transcend national borders. By fostering cooperation and coordination among member states, SAARC helps address shared challenges and promotes collective security and environmental sustainability.

Cultural Exchange: SAARC promotes cultural exchange and people-to-people contacts among member states, fostering greater understanding and appreciation of the region’s diverse cultures, languages, and traditions. Cultural diplomacy through SAARC initiatives promotes goodwill and friendship among South Asian countries.

Academic References on the SAARC

  1. Chaudhury, S., & Ganguly, D. (Eds.). (2015). The State of SAARC Literature. Routledge.
  2. Jahan, R. (2017). Regionalism in South Asia: Negotiating Cooperation, Institutional Structures. Palgrave Macmillan.
  3. Mahmood, A., & Kathuria, S. (Eds.). (2018). SAARC: Towards Greater Cooperation. SAGE Publications India.
  4. Datta, P. (2019). The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC): An Analysis of Its Evolution, Structure, and Functioning. Asian Journal of Political Science, 27(3), 309-327.
  5. Khan, M. A. (2020). SAARC: Present and Future Prospects. Journal of South Asian Studies, 43(2), 217-234.
  6. Sen, R., & Bose, P. (2016). SAARC: Genesis, Growth, and Challenges. Vij Books India Pvt Ltd.
  7. Alam, M. (2017). SAARC at Crossroads: The Dilemma of Regional Cooperation in South Asia. Journal of South Asian Studies, 42(1), 83-98.
  8. Banerjee, D., & Naidu, G. V. C. (Eds.). (2018). SAARC: An Appraisal. Pentagon Press.
  9. Ghosh, S. K. (2019). SAARC: Prospects and Challenges for Regional Cooperation. Strategic Analysis, 43(5), 394-409.
  10. Joshi, P., & Basnet, R. (Eds.). (2016). Understanding SAARC: History, Functions and Future. Adroit Publishers.

Headquarters: Kathmandu, Nepal

Founded on: 08 December, 1985 in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Chairman: Golam Sarwar

Member States: 08 member states including 09 observer states


Purpose of the SAARC

Promoting economic cooperation: SAARC seeks to promote trade, investment, and economic integration among its member states to stimulate economic growth and development in the region. Efforts such as the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) aim to reduce tariffs and barriers to trade, thereby facilitating increased commerce among member countries.

Enhancing social development: SAARC places significant emphasis on addressing social issues such as poverty, education, healthcare, and gender equality. Through initiatives like the SAARC Social Charter and the SAARC Development Goals, member states collaborate to improve the well-being and livelihoods of their citizens.

Strengthening collective self-reliance: SAARC aims to enhance the self-reliance and resilience of member states by promoting cooperation in areas such as agriculture, energy, and technology transfer. By sharing resources and expertise, member countries can better address common challenges and capitalize on shared opportunities.

Fostering mutual assistance: SAARC emphasizes the importance of solidarity and mutual assistance among member states, particularly in times of crisis or natural disasters. Through mechanisms such as the SAARC Disaster Management Centre, member countries collaborate to coordinate relief efforts and build resilience against common threats.

Promoting peace and stability: SAARC seeks to promote peace, stability, and security in South Asia by fostering dialogue, confidence-building measures, and conflict resolution among member states. By addressing underlying tensions and promoting cooperation, SAARC contributes to regional stability and reduces the risk of conflict.

Motive of the SAARC Summit

Dialogue and Cooperation: The Summit provides a platform for leaders to engage in dialogue and exchange views on regional issues, fostering mutual understanding and cooperation among member states. Through discussions and negotiations, leaders seek to build consensus on key priorities and initiatives to advance the objectives of SAARC.

Decision-Making: Significant choices pertaining to the organization’s policies, strategies, and activities are taken at the SAARC Summit. Leaders utilize the Summit to decide on goals, designate strategic directions, and agree action plans for regional cooperation in fields like trade, social welfare, economic development, and security.

Agenda Setting: The Summit sets the agenda for SAARC’s activities and initiatives over the coming year, providing a roadmap for regional cooperation and integration. Leaders identify key challenges and opportunities facing South Asia and discuss ways to address them through collective action and collaboration.

Symbolism and Solidarity: The SAARC Summit serves as a symbol of solidarity and unity among South Asian countries, highlighting the importance of regional cooperation in addressing common challenges and promoting shared prosperity. The Summit reaffirms the commitment of member states to the principles and objectives of SAARC and showcases their willingness to work together for the collective benefit of the region.

Different Awards given by SAARC

SAARC Award: The SAARC Award is a prestigious recognition conferred by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to individuals, organizations, or institutions for their outstanding contributions to the promotion of regional cooperation and development within South Asia. It serves as a symbol of excellence and solidarity among SAARC member states, highlighting the importance of collaboration and mutual understanding in addressing common challenges and achieving shared goals.

SAARC Literary Award: The SAARC Literary Award honors literary excellence and cultural diversity within the South Asian region. It recognizes outstanding writers, poets, and literary figures whose works contribute to the enrichment of South Asian literature and promote cross-cultural understanding and appreciation. The award underscores the importance of literature as a vehicle for fostering dialogue, empathy, and solidarity among the peoples of South Asia, transcending borders and promoting a shared sense of identity and heritage.

SAARC Youth Award: The SAARC Youth Award celebrates the achievements and contributions of young people in promoting social, economic, and cultural development within the South Asian region. It recognizes outstanding young leaders, activists, entrepreneurs, and innovators who have demonstrated exceptional dedication and initiative in addressing pressing issues facing their communities and advancing the goals of SAARC. The award highlights the critical role of youth empowerment and engagement in building a more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable future for South Asia.

Stance of SAARC on terrorism

Condemnation: SAARC member states have unequivocally condemned terrorism in all its forms, including acts of violence, extremism, and terrorism perpetrated by individuals, groups, or state actors. They have emphasized that terrorism poses a grave threat to regional peace, stability, and development and must be addressed collectively and comprehensively.

Cooperation: SAARC promotes cooperation among member states to combat terrorism through mechanisms such as the SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism and its Additional Protocol. These legal instruments facilitate cooperation in areas such as extradition, mutual legal assistance, and information sharing to prevent and combat terrorism effectively.

Comprehensive Approach: SAARC advocates for a comprehensive approach to counterterrorism that addresses the root causes of terrorism, including poverty, unemployment, marginalization, and the spread of extremist ideologies. Member states recognize the importance of addressing socio-economic grievances and promoting inclusive development to prevent the radicalization and recruitment of individuals into terrorist organizations.

Dialogue and Diplomacy: SAARC emphasizes the importance of dialogue, diplomacy, and engagement as essential tools for resolving conflicts, addressing grievances, and preventing the spread of terrorism. Member states promote constructive dialogue and cooperation to address underlying tensions and disputes that may fuel extremism and violence.

International Cooperation: SAARC collaborates with international organizations, including the United Nations and its specialized agencies, as well as regional bodies, to strengthen global efforts to combat terrorism. Member states support initiatives aimed at enhancing international cooperation, capacity-building, and coordination in counterterrorism efforts.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x