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South Asian Association for Regional

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
(SAARC) is the regional intergovernmental organization and South Asian Association
geopolitical union of states in South Asia. Its member states are for Regional Cooperation
Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan
and Sri Lanka. SAARC comprises 3% of the world's area, 21% of the
world's population and 3.8% (US$2.9 trillion)[3] of the global economy,
as of 2015.

SAARC was founded in Dhaka on 8 December 1985.[4] Its secretariat is

based in Kathmandu, Nepal. The organization promotes development of
economic and regional integration.[5] It launched the South Asian Free
Trade Area in 2006.[6] SAARC maintains permanent diplomatic
relations at the United Nations as an observer and has developed links
with multilateral entities, including the European Union.

Historical background
Members and observers
Potential future members
SAARC Region
Specialized Bodies
Regional Centres
Apex and Recognized Bodies
SAARC Disaster Management Centre
Political issues
Member states
South Asian Free Trade Area
SAARC Visa Exemption Scheme
Observer states

Awards Headquarters Kathmandu

Official languages English
SAARC Literary Award
SAARC Youth Award Demonym(s) South Asian

Secretaries-General of SAARC Member states 8 members

SAARC summits 9 observers
Current leaders of SAARC Leaders
Current leaders
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See also • Secretary-General Amjad

References Hussain B. Sial[1]
External links Establishment 8 December 1985
• Total 5,099,611 km2
Historical background (1,968,971 sq mi)
The idea of co-operation among South Asian Countries was discussed in • Water (%) 6.8
three conferences: the Asian Relations Conference held in New Delhi on Population
April 1947; the Baguio Conference in the Philippines on May 1950; and • 2015 estimate 1,713,870,000[2]
the Colombo Powers Conference held in Sri Lanka in April 1954.[7] (1st)
• Density 336.1/km2
(870.5/sq mi)
GDP (PPP) 2017 estimate
• Total US$11.64 trillion[3]
GDP (nominal) 2017 estimate
• Total $3.31 trillion[3]
Currency 8 currencies

Time zone UTC+4:30 to +6

Calling code 8 codes

A clickable Euler diagram showing the relationships www.saarc-sec.org (http://www.saarc-se
between various Asian regional organisations c.org/)
v • d • e (https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Template:Supranational_
In the ending years of the 1970s, the seven inner South Asian
nations that included Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives,
Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka agreed upon the creation of a trade bloc and to provide a platform for the people of South
Asia to work together in a spirit of friendship, trust, and understanding. President Ziaur Rahman later addressed official
letters to the leaders of the countries of the South Asia, presenting his vision for the future of the region and the
compelling arguments for region.[8] During his visit to India in December 1977, Rahman discussed the issue of regional
cooperation with the Indian Prime Minister, Morarji Desai. In the inaugural speech to the Colombo Plan Consultative
Committee which met in Kathmandu also in 1977, King Birendra of Nepal gave a call for close regional cooperation among
South Asian countries in sharing river waters.[9]

After the USSR's intervention in Afghanistan, the efforts to establish the union was accelerated in 1979 and the resulting
rapid deterioration of South Asian security situation.[9] Responding to Rahman and Birendra's convention, the officials of
the foreign ministries of the seven countries met for the first time in Colombo in April 1981.[9] The Bangladeshi proposal
was promptly endorsed by Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and the Maldives but India and Pakistan were sceptical initially.[9]
The Indian concern was the proposal's reference to the security matters in South Asia and feared that Rahman's proposal
for a regional organisation might provide an opportunity for new smaller neighbours to re-internationalize all bilateral
issues and to join with each other to form an opposition against India. Pakistan assumed that it might be an Indian
strategy to organize the other South Asian countries against Pakistan and ensure a regional market for Indian products,
thereby consolidating and further strengthening India's economic dominance in the region.[9]

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However, after a series of diplomatic consultations headed by Bangladesh between South Asian U.N. representatives at the
UN headquarters in New York, from September 1979 to 1980, it was agreed that Bangladesh would prepare the draft of a
working paper for discussion among the foreign secretaries of South Asian countries.[9] The foreign secretaries of the
inner seven countries again delegated a Committee of the Whole in Colombo on September 1981, which identified five
broad areas for regional cooperation. New areas of co-operation were added in the following years.[10]

In 1983, the international conference held in Dhaka by its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the foreign ministers of the inner
seven countries adopted the Declaration on South Asian Association Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and formally
launched the Integrated Programme of Action (IPA) initially in five agreed areas of cooperation namely, Agriculture; Rural
Development; Telecommunications; Meteorology; and Health and Population Activities.[11]

Officially, the union was established in Dhaka with Kathmandu being union's secretariat-general.[12] The first SAARC
summit was held in Dhaka on 7–8 December 1985 and hosted by the President of Bangladesh Hussain Ershad.[13] The
declaration signed by King of Bhutan Jigme Singye Wangchuk, President of Pakistan Zia-ul-Haq, Prime Minister of India
Rajiv Gandhi, King of Nepal Birendra Shah, President of Sri Lanka JR Jayewardene, and President of Maldives Maumoon

Members and observers

Economic data is sourced from the International Monetary Fund, current as of April 2015, and is given in US dollars.[14]


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Population[15][16] (nominal, (PPP, per growth (US$
Country (US$
(2018) US$ US$ capita rate million,
million) million) (PPP) (2018) 2018)
2017 or

37,171,921 $19,585 $72,911 $2,017 2.3% $784 N/A


161,376,708 $314,656 $831,750 $4,992 7.7% $40,905 $14,620


Bhutan 754,388 $2,627 $7,701 $9,540 6.4% $580 $186

India 1,352,642,280 $2,716,746 $10,505,288 $7,874 7.0% $303,400 $367,500

515,696 $5,302 $7,936 $21,760 6.9% $256 $324


Nepal 28,095,714 $28,812 $84,365 $2,905 6.2% $819 $103

212,228,286 $278,019 $1,141,210 $5,839 3.3% $21,940 $41,560


21,228,763 $88,223 $290,561 $13,397 3.0% $10,930 N/A

The member states are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.[21]

SAARC was founded by seven states in 1985. In 2005, Afghanistan began negotiating their accession to SAARC and
formally applied for membership on the same year.[22][23] The issue of Afghanistan joining SAARC generated a great deal
of debate in each member state, including concerns about the definition of South Asian identity because Afghanistan is a
Central Asian country.[24]

The SAARC member states imposed a stipulation for Afghanistan to hold a general election; the non-partisan elections
were held in late 2005.[24] Despite initial reluctance and internal debates, Afghanistan joined SAARC as its eighth member
state in April 2007.[24][25]


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States with observer status include[26] Australia,[27] China, the European Union,[28] Iran, Japan,[28] Mauritius,[29]
Myanmar, South Korea and the United States.[30]

On 2 August 2006, the foreign ministers of the SAARC countries agreed in principle to grant observer status to three
applicants;[31] the US and South Korea (both made requests in April 2006),[31] as well as the European Union (requested
in July 2006).[32] On 4 March 2007, Iran requested observer status,[33] followed shortly by Mauritius.

Potential future members

Myanmar has expressed interest in upgrading its status from an observer to a full member of SAARC.[34] Russia has
applied for observer status membership of SAARC.[35][36][37] Turkey applied for observer status membership of SAARC in
2012.[35][36][37] South Africa has participated in meetings.[38]

The SAARC Secretariat was established in Kathmandu on 16 January 1987 and
was inaugurated by the late King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah of Nepal.[39]

Specialized Bodies
The SAARC Member States have created the following Specialized Bodies of
SAARC in the Member States which have special mandates and structures
different from the Regional Centers. These bodies are managed by their
respective Governing Boards composed of representatives from all the Member
Secretariat of the South Asian
States, the representative of H.E. Secretary-General of SAARC and the
Association for Regional
Ministry of Foreign/External Affairs of the Host Government. The heads of
Cooperation in Kathmandu, Nepal
these Bodies act as Member Secretary to the Governing Board which reports to
the Programming Committee of SAARC.

Specialized Body Location Country Website

SAARC Arbitration Council (SARCO) Islamabad Pakistan www.sarco.org.pk
SAARC Development Fund (SDF) Thimphu Bhutan www.sdfsec.org
South Asian University (SAU) New Delhi India www.sau.int
South Asian Regional Standards Organization (SARSO) Dhaka Bangladesh www.sarso.org.bd

Regional Centres
The SAARC Secretariat is supported by following Regional Centres established in the Member States to promote regional
co-operation. These Centres are managed by Governing Boards comprising representatives from all the Member States,
SAARC Secretary-General and the Ministry of Foreign/External Affairs of the Host Government. The Director of the
Centre acts as Member Secretary to the Governing Board which reports to the Programming Committee. After 31
December 2015, there 6 regional centers were stopped by unanimous decision. These are SMRC, SFC, SDC, SCZMC, SIC,

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Regional Centre Location Country Website

Official website (http://www.sac.or
SAARC Agricultural Centre (SAC) Dhaka Bangladesh
SAARC Meteorological Research Centre (SMRC) Dhaka Bangladesh
SAARC Forestry Centre (SFC) Thimphu Bhutan
Official website (http://www.sdfsec.
SAARC Development Fund (SDF) Thimphu Bhutan
SAARC Documentation Centre (SDC) New Delhi India
Official website (http://saarc-sdmc.
SAARC Disaster Management Centre (SDMC) Gandhinagar India
SAARC Coastal Zone Management Centre
Malé Maldives
SAARC Information Centre (SIC) Kathmandu Nepal
SAARC Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS Centre Official website (http://www.saarct
Kathmandu Nepal
(STAC) b.org/)
SAARC Human Resources Development Centre
Islamabad Pakistan
Official website (http://www.saarce
SAARC Energy Centre (SEC) Islamabad Pakistan
Official website (http://www.saarcc
SAARC Cultural Centre (SCC) Colombo Sri Lanka

SAARC does not have an official anthem like some other regional organizations (e.g., ASEAN).[41]

Apex and Recognized Bodies

SAARC has six Apex Bodies,[42] they are-

SAARC Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCI),

South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in Law(SAARCLAW),[43]
South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA),
South Asia Foundation (SAF),
South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC),
Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature (FOSWAL)
Amjad Hussain B. Sial is the current Secretary General of SAARC.

SAARC also has about 17 recognized bodies.[42]

SAARC Disaster Management Centre

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. Eight Member States, i.e.,
Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are expected to be served by the SDMC

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(IU). It is entrusted with the responsibility of serving Member States by providing policy advice, technical support on
system development, capacity building services and training for holistic management of disaster risk in the SAARC region.
The centre also facilitates exchange of information and expertise for effective and efficient management of disaster risk.

Political issues
Lasting peace and prosperity in South Asia has been elusive because of the various ongoing conflicts in the region. Political
dialogue is often conducted on the margins of SAARC meetings which have refrained from interfering in the internal
matters of its member states.[44] During the 12th and 13th SAARC summits, extreme emphasis was laid upon greater
cooperation between the SAARC members to fight terrorism.[45][46]

The 19th SAARC summit scheduled to be held in Pakistan was called off as India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan
decided to boycott it.[47][48] It was for the first time that four countries boycotted a SAARC summit, leading to its

South Asian Free Trade Area

SAFTA was envisaged primarily as the first step towards the
transition to a South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) leading
subsequently towards a Customs Union, Common Market and
the Economic Union. In 1995, Sixteenth session of the Council of
Ministers (New Delhi, 18–19 December 1995) agreed on the need
to strive for the realization of SAFTA and to this end, an Inter-
Governmental Expert Group (IGEG) was set up in 1996 to
identify the necessary steps for progressing to a free trade area. Countries under the South Asian Free Trade Area
The Tenth SAARC Summit (Colombo, 29–31 July 1998) decided
to set up a Committee of Experts (COE) to draft a comprehensive
treaty framework for creating a free trade area within the region, taking into consideration the asymmetries in
development within the region and bearing in mind the need to fix realistic and achievable targets.

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 Liberalization Programme commenced from 1 July 2006.
Under this agreement, SAARC members will bring their duties down to 20 percent by 2009. Following the Agreement
coming into force the SAFTA Ministerial Council (SMC) has been established comprising the Commerce Ministers of the
Member States.[51] In 2012 the SAARC exports increased substantially to $354.6 billion from $206.7 billion in 2009.
Imports too increased from $330 billion to $602 billion over the same period. But 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.

SAFTA was envisaged to gradually move towards the South Asian Economic Union, but the current intra-regional trade
and investment relation are not encouraging and it may be difficult to achieve this target. The SAARC intra-regional trade
stands at just five percent on the share of intra-regional trade in overall trade in South Asia. Similarly, foreign direct
investment is also dismal. The intra-regional FDI flow stands at around four percent of the total foreign investment.[52]

The Asian Development Bank has 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. The study by Asian
Development Bank states that against the potential average SAARC intra-regional trade of $22 billion per year, the actual

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trade in South Asia has been only around $8 billion. The uncaptured potential for intra-regional trade is therefore $14
billion per year, i.e., 68%.[53][54]

SAARC Visa Exemption Scheme

The SAARC Visa Exemption Scheme was launched in 1992. The leaders at the Fourth Summit (Islamabad, 29–31
December 1988), realizing the importance of people-to-people contact among SAARC countries, decided that certain
categories of dignitaries should be entitled to a Special Travel document. The document would exempt them from visas
within the region. As directed by the Summit, the Council of Ministers regularly kept under review the list of entitled

Currently, the list included 24 categories of entitled persons, which include dignitaries, judges of higher courts,
parliamentarians, senior officials, entrepreneurs, journalists, and athletes.

The Visa Stickers are issued by the respective Member States to the entitled categories of that particular country. The
validity of the Visa Sticker is generally for one year. The implementation is reviewed regularly by the Immigration
Authorities of SAARC Member States.[55]


The Twelfth (12th) Summit approved the SAARC Award to support individuals and organizations within the region. The
main aims of the SAARC Award are:

To encourage individuals and organizations based in South Asia to undertake programmes and activities that
complement the efforts of SAARC
To encourage individuals and organizations in South Asia contributing to bettering the conditions of women and
To honour outstanding contributions and achievements of individuals and organizations within the region in the fields
of peace, development, poverty alleviation, environmental protection, and regional cooperation
To honour any other contributions and achievement not covered above of individuals and organizations in the region.
The SAARC Award consists of a gold medal, a letter of citation, and cash prize of $25,000. Since the institution of the
SAARC Award in 2004, it has been awarded only once and the Award was posthumously conferred upon the late President
Ziaur Rahman of Bangladesh.[56]

SAARC Literary Award

The SAARC Literary Award is an annual award conferred by the Foundation of
SAARC Writers and Literature (FOSWAL) since 2001[57][58] which is an apex
SAARC body.[59] Shamshur Rahman, Mahasweta Devi, Jayanta Mahapatra,
Abhi Subedi, Mark Tully, Sitakant Mahapatra, Uday Prakash, Suman Pokhrel
and Abhay K are some of the prominent recipients of this award.[60]

Nepali poet, lyricist, and translator Suman Pokhrel is the only poet/writer to
get this award twice.[61] Recipients of SAARC Literary
Award 2013

SAARC Youth Award

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The SAARC Youth Award is awarded to outstanding individuals from the SAARC region. The award is notable because of
the recognition it gives to the Award winner in the SAARC region. The award is based on specific themes which apply to
each year. The award recognizes and promotes the commitment and talent of the youth who give back to the world at large
through various initiatives such as Inventions, Protection of the Environment and Disaster relief. The recipients who
receive this award are ones who have dedicated their lives to their individual causes to improve situations in their own
countries as well as paving a path for the SAARC region to follow. The Committee for the SAARC Youth Award selects the
best candidate based on his/her merits and their decision is final.[62]

Previous Winners:

1997: Outstanding Social Service in Community Welfare – Sukur Salek (Bangladesh)

1998: New Inventions and Shanu — Najmul Hasnain Shah (Pakistan)
2001: Creative Photography: South Asian Diversity – Mushfiqul Alam (Bangladesh)
2002: Outstanding contribution to protect the Environment – Masil Khan (Pakistan)
2003: Invention in the Field of Traditional Medicine – Hassan Sher (Pakistan)
2004: Outstanding contribution to raising awareness of TB and/or HIV/AIDS – Ajij Prasad Poudyal (Nepal)
2006: Promotion of Tourism in South Asia – Syed Zafar Abbas Naqvi (Pakistan)
2008: Protecting the Environment in South Asia – Deepani Jayantha (Sri Lanka)
2009: Outstanding contribution to humanitarian works in the aftermath of Natural Disasters – Ravikant Singh (India)
2010: Outstanding contribution for the Protection of Environment and mitigation of Climate Change – Anoka Primrose
Abeyrathne (Sri Lanka)

Secretaries-General of SAARC
# Name Country Took office Left office

1 Abul Ahsan Bangladesh 16 January 1985 15 October 1989

2 Kant Kishore Bhargava India 17 October 1989 31 December 1991

3 Ibrahim Hussein Zaki Maldives 1 January 1992 31 December 1993

4 Yadav Kant Silwal Nepal 1 January 1994 31 December 1995

5 Naeem U. Hasan Pakistan 1 January 1996 31 December 1998

6 Nihal Rodrigo Sri Lanka 1 January 1999 10 January 2002

7 Q. A. M. A. Rahim Bangladesh 11 January 2002 28 February 2005

8 Chenkyab Dorji Bhutan 1 March 2005 29 February 2008

9 Sheel Kant Sharma India 1 March 2008 28 February 2011

10 Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed Maldives 1 March 2011 11 March 2012

11 Ahmed Saleem Maldives 12 March 2012 28 February 2014

12 Arjun Bahadur Thapa Nepal 1 March 2014 28 February 2017

13 Amjad Hussain B. Sial Pakistan 1 March 2017 Incumbent

SAARC summits

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No Date Country Host Host leader

1st 7–8 December 1985 Bangladesh Dhaka Ataur Rahman Khan
2nd 16–17 November 1986 India Bengaluru Rajiv Gandhi
3rd 2–4 November 1987 Nepal Kathmandu King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah
4th 29–31 December 1988 Pakistan Islamabad Benazir Bhutto
5th 21–23 November 1990 Maldives Malé Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
6th 21 December 1991 Sri Lanka Colombo Ranasinghe Premadasa
7th 10–11 April 1993 Bangladesh Dhaka Khaleda Zia
8th 2–4 May 1995 India New Delhi P V Narasimha Rao
9th 12–14 May 1997 Maldives Malé Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
10th 29–31 July 1998 Sri Lanka Colombo Chandrika Kumaratunga
11th 4–6 January 2002 Nepal Kathmandu Sher Bahadur Deuba
12th 2–6 January 2004 Pakistan Islamabad Zafarullah Khan Jamali
13th 12–13 November 2005 Bangladesh Dhaka Khaleda Zia
14th 3–4 April 2007 India New Delhi Manmohan Singh
15th 1–3 August 2008 Sri Lanka Colombo Mahinda Rajapaksa
16th 28–29 April 2010 Bhutan Thimphu Jigme Thinley
17th 10–11 November 2011 Maldives Addu Mohammed Nasheed

18th 26–27 November 2014[63] Nepal Kathmandu Sushil Koirala

19th 9–10 November 2016 Pakistan Islamabad Cancelled

20th 2019 Sri Lanka Colombo Mahinda Rajapaksa

Current leaders of SAARC

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Afghanistan Bangladesh Bhutan

President Ashraf Ghani Prime Minister Sheikh Prime Minister Lotay
Hasina Tshering

India Maldives Nepal

Prime Minister Narendra President Ibrahim Prime Minister Khadga
Modi Mohamed Solih Prasad Oli

Pakistan Sri Lanka

Prime Minister Imran Khan Prime Minister Mahinda

Current leaders

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Country President Prime Minister

Abdullah Abdullah
Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani

Bangladesh Abdul Hamid Sheikh Hasina

Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck Lotay Tshering
India Ram Nath Kovind Narendra Modi
Maldives Ibrahim Mohamed Solih
Nepal Bidhya Devi Bhandari Khadga Prasad Oli
Pakistan Arif Alvi Imran Khan
Sri Lanka Gotabaya Rajapaksa Mahinda Rajapaksa

See also
ASEAN and India's Look-East connectivity projects
Asia Cooperation Dialogue
SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Bangladesh Bhutan India Nepal Initiative
Indian-Ocean Rim Association
List of SAARC summits
Mekong–Ganga Cooperation
SAARC satellite
South Asian University
South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

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External links
Official website (http://www.saarc-sec.org/)
SAARC Youth (http://www.saarc-sec.org/areaofcooperation/detail.php?activity_id=9)

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