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1. SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation), the brain child of our late
president Ziaur Rahman, started its maiden journey from Dhaka in the year 1985. The
idea of forming a regional bloc for cooperation between the seven South Asian countries,
namely, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka was put
forward in the year 1980. Foreign Secretaries of seven South Asian states met for the
first time in Colombo in April 1981. In August 1983, the foreign ministers during their first
meeting in New Delhi, launched the integrated program of action through the adoption of
SAARC. It was formally established at the Dhaka Summit held on 7 December 1985. 1
1. The bright prospect of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) could
not gain its momentum due to various constrains and the organization could hardly
contribute in the development of this region despite its true potentials. On the other hand
the absence of such cooperation has accelerated the expansion of terrorism and the
downfall of economic development in this region. However, with the end of 13 th SAARC
summit at Dhaka it moves on to the 3rd decade amidst numerous promises and proposals
to up heave the lot of 1.5 billion people of South Asia. Now the leaders of this region has
realized after two decades that the body needs to redefine its reasons for being. The 53
point Dhaka Declaration, issued on 13th November 2005 at the end of the summit is the
document of their realization and a true ray of hope. All the leaders agreed upon the need
to improve the regional relationship through enhanced political and economic cooperation
and alleviation of poverty from this region. A combined effort to combat terrorism was also
a vital issue. The true potential of this declaration can only be derived only when correct
steps will be taken to materialize these vital issues. At this stage, we need to identify the
constrain of SAARC before we start afresh so that this time it really becomes an effective
organization to combat terrorism and poverty alleviation. This paper is an effort to look for
a formidable staircase to climb up the so long tower of cooperation and development.
1. This paper will highlight the constrains of SAARC with means suggested to overcome
those, analyze the prospect of SAARC in combating terrorism and poverty reduction and
thereby will seek to recommend few steps necessary to turn SAARC into a successful
1. The aim of this paper is to highlight the reasons for failure of SAARC to combat terrorism
and poverty alleviation with suggestions to overcome at present situation.

1. Constrains Of SAARC. Why SAARC could not achieve its goal is a matter of detail
study. There is a definite need to understand and identify the areas of constrains that is
still prevailing even after two decades since Its establishment and posses real hurdle to
its advancement. Only identifying may not serve its purpose but to find out the

necessary steps and to implement those on ground are also two necessary factors to
make this organization a successful one. Few of the constrains those are within the
scope of this paper are discussed here:

a. Information Gap. Information gap is a major bottleneck for cooperation

schemes.2 Information on capabilities of the different countries, trade policies,
distribution channels etc are inadequate. Information regarding different terrorist
groups, their cross-border communication and supply routes are of vital
importance to combat them effectively.

a. Disparities. Disparities in size and strength of member states make differences




in outlook and orientation on vital issues. At times it gives rise to the worry that
the larger country will use their political power to coerce the smaller ones in
agreement. Again, disparities in the level of development initiate lack of trust and
confidence.3 This mistrust in turn impedes the progress of regional cooperation.
Due to lack of information on such sensitive matters often and on the member
countries blame each other for sheltering the terrorist groups of one country into
Economic Interest. SAARC consists of both developing and least developed
countries. As such, divergent economic interests exist in the region. This results
in non-considerate attitude of one country towards other while making different
trade agreements with other countries beyond SAARC thereby causes all the
countries to become losers. For example: Bangladesh imported 44,000 tons of
raw cotton from India during year 1989-90 from countries other than India at US$
2,032 per ton. India's export price for the same product at the same time was
US$ 1,597 per ton. Bangladesh could have gained a total of US$ 191.4 million
had she imported raw cotton from India4.
Political Climate. Hardly anyone can question about the desirability of SAARC,
but the lack of collective political will has prevented SAARC from realizing its true
potential. This makes the member states less interested in spontaneous
participation and approach for cooperation.
Less Organizational Power. SAARC has very less organizational power to
defuse the tension. More so, contentious bilateral issues can not be discussed in
the SAARC forum. It causes less reliance on SAARC on more important issues
an interests of the member states and thereby reduces its capability to the

a. Indian Hegemony Attitude. Many countries do not like Indian hegemony

attitude. As such, SAARC faces difficulties to take care of regional interest.
1. How to Overcome the Constrains. The cooperation and partnership within the
framework of SAARC has to be based on the sound foundation of shared values, beliefs
and aspirations. The following may be considered to overcome the constrains:

a. Proper institutional infrastructure needs to be developed for the purpose of

reducing the information gap among the states. Information on various trade
interest, production facilities and agreements, especially information on terrorist
activities has to be exchanged on regular basis through proper channels.
b. Protection of small states should be firmly rooted in scrupulous adherence to the
UN Charter, rule of law and the strict adherence to universally accepted
principles and norms related to sovereign rights and territorial integrity of all
States, irrespective of their size. SAARC should commit itself to give concrete
_expression to protect the interest and security of all small states through the
pursuit of appropriate policies and actions.
c. SAARC Member States should work closely together to coordinate their positions
in the on-going negotiations on trade and other key economic issues. They must
sort out the areas to be addressed to bring a balance in the economical
development among the states. The observance of SAFTA that has been signed
this year will definitely remove the divergent economic interest. Besides, regional
agreements on customs, taxation, investment and arbitration matters have also
been signed in the 13th SAARC Summit which also be of great help in this regard.
d. Recognizing the increasing interdependence and the imperative of pursuing the
objectives of peace, freedom, social justice and economic prosperity, SAARC
must resolve to foster mutual understanding, good neighborly relations and a
more meaningful cooperation through sustained constructive engagement and
improved political climate among Member States. Like Srilanka has decided to
put forward a name for the selection of next UN secretary who must be from Asia
this time. In this case the members of SAARC have agreed to vote for Srilanka in
the UN forum. This sort of steps will contribute positively in growing up collective
political will.
e. On completion of twenty years of SAARC's existence, it is now essential that a
comprehensive review and reform of all SAARC institutions and mechanisms
including its objectives should be undertaken to increase its organizational
capability so that it can address any bilateral issues among the member states.
f. Islamic Republic of Afghanistan requested for the membership before the 13 th
SAARC summit and in the summit their request was accepted. They also agreed
in principle with the desire of the Peoples Republic of China and Japan to be
associated as observers. This may, to some extent, contribute in breaking the
Indian hegemony attitude as a lone powerful state in the organization.

1. Other Areas to be Emphasized. Along with political cooperation, effort must be taken to
develop the people-to-people contact and cultural cooperation among the member states.
This may be done by facilitating travel among SAARC countries, promotion of youth
exchanges in culture and sports, promotion of intra-SAARC tourism, establishment of
linkages among professional bodies and through adoption of other concrete measures. In
Dhaka Summit it was decided to launch 2006 as South Asia Tourism Year." Cooperation
in the area of culture is vital for reinforcing and projecting the distinct identity of South
Asia. In this context, the SAARC Cultural Centre in Kandy which is under construction
needs to be made operational at the earliest. Observer status has been granted to

SAARC by the United Nations General Assembly at its Fifty-ninth Session; this would not
only enhance the profile of SAARC in the world body but would also enable Member
States to project common positions of SAARC in various multilateral forums.
1. The Heads of State or Government decided to declare the decade of 2006-2015 as the
SAARC Decade of Poverty Alleviation. During the Decade, endeavors both at the
national and regional level - will continue to be made with a sense of commitment and
urgency to free South Asia from poverty. Priorities of action has been identified and
endorsed to achieve the SAARC Development Goals (SDG) as recommended by the
Independent South Asian Commission on Poverty Alleviation (ISACPA).
1. SAARC Poverty Alleviation Fund (SPAF) has been established and ISACPA has already
declared to spend 300 million dollars this year. This money will be spent for food, security,
health care and environment and to uplift the overall quality of life of the people of South
Asia5. SPAF shall function as the umbrella financial institution for all SAARC projects and
programs and comprise three Windows namely Social Window, Infrastructure Window
and Economic Window with a Permanent Secretariat. This is one of the huge steps taken
by SAARC since its establishment towards poverty alleviation.
1. Finance Ministers of all the member countries from now on will meet within the first
quarter after every Summit and also on the sidelines of the World Bank and ADB annual
meetings, to take stock of macro-economic developments and outlook for South Asia,
achievement of SAARC Development Goals as co-related to Millennium Development
Goals (MDG) and to assess the investment climate, foreign capital inflows, financial
sector reforms and other areas of cooperation. This will help the member countries to
keep pace with the global economic development and to sue collective economic goals.
1. The launching of SAFTA is an important milestone on the road to a South Asian
Economic Union. To take the fullest advantage of this agreement now its a crying need to
strengthen transportation and communication links across the region for accelerated and
balanced economic growth. SAARC Regional Multimodal Transport Study is going on to
enhance transport connectivity among the Member States. The Heads of State or
Government agreed to undertake trade facilitation measures, including transit among
SAARC countries, on the basis of understanding among concerned countries, for
enhancing intra-regional trade and other economic activities.
1. To take the process of regional economic integration further, very soon SAFTA is going to
include trade in services, enhanced investment and agreement on mutual recognition on
standards, testing and measurements. All non-tariff and Para-tariff barriers will soon be
removed to encourage intra-regional trade. To promote energy efficiency and
conservation of energy in the region SAARC members have decided to establish the

SAARC energy centre in Islamabad. Besides, steps are being taken to develop tradecreating investment in the member states in the fields like Information and
Communication Technology (ICT). A proposal to establish of a Regional Food Bank by
India is now under examination.
1. SAARC is now ready to embrace all kinds of issues of regional cooperation. As a
beginning of its new image the following Agreements were signed during the thirteenth
SAARC Summit:
a. The Agreement on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Customs Matters.
b. The Agreement on the Establishment of SAARC Arbitration Council.
c. The Limited Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation and Mutual
Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters
1. Organized crime has increased and assumed a new vigor in South Asia. There are
organized crime networks operating in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. None
of the networks originate in the region but the vulnerability of the region has made South
Asia a lucrative ground for operation. Illicit weapon transfers, organized crime, terrorism,
narcotics and corruption are closely linked. Border disputes exist between India and
several of its neighbors, notably between China, Pakistan and Bangladesh. This has
contributed in the flow of refugees as well as illicit weapons across borders which
ultimately complicate regional security. Up to 90% of the weaponry in the region
originates from outside. Markets in West, Central and Southeast Asia, Mid-East and
Europe provide conventional weapons to non-state actors. The arms-pipe line of the
semi-covert multi-national anti-Soviet Afghan campaign leaked profusely and continues to
feed South Asia6.
1. Terrorism violates the fundamental values of the SAARC Charter and the United Nations,
and constitutes one of the most critical threats to regional as well as international peace
and security. It is matter of great achievement for SAARC and a matter of great
satisfaction of us that an Additional Protocol to the SAARC Convention on Suppression of
Terrorism has been accepted by all Member States (except Bhutan) 7.
In the 13th summit, the Heads of the States or Government called for early and
effective implementation of the Additional Protocol. They underscored the need for an
early conclusion of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. They also
agreed that Member States would strengthen their cooperation in such important areas
as exchange of information, coordination and cooperation among their relevant agencies.
This will have definite positive impact on the improvement of the situation.
1. They decided that SAARC Interior/Home Ministers would meet annually preceded by a
meeting of the Interior/Home Secretaries. They will ensure that concrete measures have
been taken to enforce the provisions of the protocol as well the provisions of the Regional

Convention on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances through an appropriate

regional mechanism.
18. SAARC as a regional organization cannot be self-sustaining unless the whole body wants
it to be so. Greatest success of SAARC lies in its existence despite of numerous
constrains. It kept the door of possibilities open for furthering its potentialities. The 13 th
SAARC Summit has already taken many important decisions to overcome the constrains
and bring SAARC and all its institutions and mechanisms into a decade dedicated to
implementation so that a visible and discernible impact can be felt across South Asia.
While this would enable SAARC to realize its basic objectives of improving the quality of
life of all South Asian people, it would at the same time create an enabling environment
towards the establishment of a South Asian Economic Union. This Declaration reflects
the common desire of member countries to strengthen regional cooperation in South
Asia, in order to achieve peace, progress and prosperity for all of their people. In this
regard, two most vulnerable areas of cooperation were identified i.e. poverty and
terrorism. There is also a remarkable unanimity of view that making a major dent on
these problems will require sustained, serious and targeted efforts through an appropriate
balance of adequate national and regional initiatives.
19. The signing of the regional agreements on customs, taxation, investment and arbitration
matters in The 13th SAARC Summit and the additional protocol in the 12th Summit is the
beginning of the journey towards the elimination of poverty and terrorism from this region
by ensuring trustworthy intra-regional trade and relationship.
20. The Standing Committee of SAARC to formulate its recommendations on a Vision for
SAARCs Third Decade and the course of action required for making it organizationally
more strong and reliable by reviewing its previous objectives to include new objectives so
that it can address any contentious issue.
21. A road map should be evolved for bringing in effect South Asian Economic Union to
ensue the concerted progress of all the member countries in the world economy.
22. The new decisions taken in the 13th summit to enhance the intra-regional trades should
be implemented as soon as possible like the development of communication links though
transit, establishment of Regional Food Bank, creating investment areas for the member
countries etc.
23. The Twelfth Summit adopted an Additional Protocol to the SAARC Regional Convention,
so as to deal effectively with the financing of terrorism. All members should expedite their
ratification. The exchange of information in this sector has to be the maximum.

Bangladesh Military Academy MOHAMMAD ALI KHAN

February 2006

Student Officer

Directing Staff Coordinator
Research Paper
1. A K M IQBAL AZIM, Prospect Of Saarc As Effective Forum For Regional Security,
Commandants Paper, Serial No: 3584, Defence Services Command and staff College.
2. Maj Abu Hena Md Mostofa, Prospect of Peace in South Asia , Commandants Paper,
Serial No: 3090, Defence Services Command and staff College.
3. Major Sabri Mohibbus Salam, Trade Imbalance Between Bangladesh and India: How to
Reduce It, Commandants Paper, Serial No: 2818, Defence Services Command and staff
4. The Daily Amar Desh, 03 March 2006.
5. Current News, January 2006.


. SAARC-Kathmundu, Milan Weekly and Jhilco Weekly, (Nepal, December 1990), P. 9.

. Abul Ahsan,SAARC A Perspective, (University Press Limited, Dhaka, 1992), P.268.

. Ibid, P.272.

Major Sabri Mohibbus Salam. Trade Imbalance Between Bangladesh and India, page-.13

AMAR DESH-the daily bangle newspaper, 3 Marh 06, page-3, colm-4.

Maj Abu Hena Md Mostofa, Prospect Of Peace In South Asia , page-7

Current News, January 2006, page-16