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South Asian Association for Regional

Cooperation (SAARC)

Members • Observers

Headquarters Kathmandu, Nepal

8 member states
6 observers
- Chairman Mahinda Rajapaksa
- Secretary General Sheel Kant Sharma
Establishment December 8, 1985
5,130,746 km2 (7th1)
- Total
1,980,992 sq mi
- 2004 estimate 1,467,255,669 (1st1)
- Density
740.5/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2005 estimate
- Total US$ 4,074,031 million (3rd1)
- Per capita US$ 2,777
Currency see footnote 2
Time zone (UTC+4½ to +6)
If considered as a single entity.
A unified currency has been proposed.
Present currencies (ISO 4217 codes bracketed):
2 Afghan afghani (AFG) • Bangladeshi taka (BDT) •
Bhutanese ngultrum (BTN) • Indian rupee (INR) •
Maldivian rufiyaa (MVR) • Nepalese rupee (NPR) •
Pakistani rupee (PKR) • Sri Lankan rupee (LKR)

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is an economic and
political organization of eight countries in Southern Asia. In terms of population, its sphere of
influence is the largest of any regional organization: almost 1.5 billion people, the combined
population of its member states.[citation needed] It was established on December 8, 1985 by
Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka. In April 2007, at the
Association's 14th summit, Afghanistan became its eighth member.

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was established when its
Charter was formally adopted on December 8, 1985 by the Heads of State or Government of
Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

SAARC provides a platform for the peoples of South Asia to work together in a spirit of
friendship, trust and understanding. It aims to accelerate the process of economic and social
development in Member States.

Country Brief:

AFGHANISTAN: Afghanistan is a culturally mixed nation, a crossroads between the East

and the West, and has been an ancient focal point of trade and migration. It has an important
geostrategical location, connecting South, Central and Southwest Asia.

BANGLADESH: Bangladesh’s economy is ranked 31st largest in the world. The

most largest and successful industry is the garment industry and the current GDP of
Bangladesh is at 57%. And the agricultural economy is pretty strong as most
Bangladeshis earn their living from it

BHUTAN: Bhutan's indigenous population is the Drukpa. The Sharchops, Ngalops

and the Lhotsampas are the three main ethnic groups. Bhutan's earliest residents,
the Sharchops reside predominantly in eastern Bhutan. The Ngalops migrated from
the Tibetan plains and are the importers of Buddhism to the kingdom.

INDIA: India is the largest democracy in the world. For most of its democratic
history, the federal government has been led by the Indian National Congress (INC).
State politics have been dominated by several national parties including the INC,
the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Communist Party of India (CPI), and various

MALDIVES: The Maldives holds the record for being the flattest country in the world,
with a maximum natural ground level of only 2.3 m (7½ ft), though in areas where
construction exists this has been increased to several metres. Over the last century,
sea levels have risen about twenty centimetres (8 in). The ocean is likely to
continue rising and this threatens the existence of Maldives.

NEPAL: Modern Nepal was created in the latter half of the 18th century when Prithvi
Narayan Shah, the ruler of the small principality of Gorkha, formed a unified country
from a number of independent hill states. The country was frequently called the
Gorkha Kingdom, the source of the term "Gurkha" used for Nepali soldiers.

PAKISTAN: Pakistan is a rapidly growing population. Pakistan has a mixture of many

ethnic groups ranging from Pathans, Baluchis, Punjabis and Sindhis. 97% of the
country is and Urdu is the official language, but Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Baluchi, and
Brahui are also spoken. English is common among the upper classes and also in the

SRILANKA: In February 1948, Sri Lanka became an independent member of the British
Commonwealth. The country is now in the process of creating peace but in April 2006 this was
disrupted by interethnic violence leaving the future of Sri Lanka in a balance. But one can only
hope for the peace process for Sri Lanka will continue for the sake of its people and its beautiful

The objectives of the Association as defined in the Charter are:[2]

• to promote the welfare of the people of South Asia and to improve their quality of life;
• to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region
and to provide all individuals the opportunity to live in dignity and to realize their full
• to promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia;
• to contribute to mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another's problems;
• to promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural,
technical and scientific fields;
• to strengthen cooperation with other developing countries;
• to strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums on matters of
common interest; and
• to cooperate with international and regional organisations with similar aims and purposes.

At the inception of the Association, the Integrated Programme of Action (IPA) consisting of a
number of Technical Committees (TCs) was identified as the core areas of cooperation. Over the
period of years, the number of TCs were changed as per the requirement. The current areas of
cooperation under the reconstituted Regional Integrated Programme of Action which is pursued
through the Technical Committees cover:

1. Agriculture and Rural Development;

2. Health and Population Activities;
3. Women, Youth and Children;
4. Environment and Forestry;
5. Science and Technology and Meteorology;
6. Human Resources Development; and
7. Transport.

Recently, high level Working Groups have also been established to strengthen cooperation in the
areas of Information and Communications Technology, Biotechnology, Intellectual Property
Rights, Tourism, and Energy.

Given the emphasis laid down at successive Summits on the need to expand the areas of
cooperation and strengthen the regional cooperation, a number of other areas have been included
in the SAARC agenda. Several Ministerial level meetings have taken place to give due emphasis
in various fields. The details of work programme under each agreed areas of cooperation can be
viewed by clicking the respective links.

Recognizing the escalating revolution in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
sector and the tremendous opportunities and daunting challenges emanated there-from, the issue
of communications received due prominence in the SAARC process. The Heads of State or
Government at their Ninth SAARC Summit (Male’, May 1997), noted that inadequate
communications facilities amongst the Member States were a major hindrance to closer
economic cooperation. They stressed the importance of developing infrastructure and adequate
communications networks among Member States to reinforce the process of economic
cooperation. In this regard, they highlighted the need for the simplification of complex
documentation procedures and transactional software to facilitate economic interaction across the

Pursuant to the above decision, the SAARC Communications Ministers held their First
Conference in Colombo in May 1998. They agreed that telecommunications should not be
looked upon purely as a source of revenue but rather as a multifaceted process enhancing socio-
economic development in the region. They also agreed on specific steps to further promote
cooperation among Member States on a sustained basis. The Conference adopted a Plan of
Action on Telecommunications.

The SAARC Communications Ministers held their second Conference in Islamabad in June
2004. In view of the rapid and innovative developments in the telecommunications sector, they
had in-depth discussion on the earlier Plan of Action. They agreed on a comprehensive strategy
for cooperation to facilitate the enhancement and expansion of telecommunications facilities in
the region and adopted a Revised SAARC Plan of Action on Telecommunications – 2004 with
the following goals and objectives:

• To promote cooperation in the enhancement of telecommunication links and utilization of

information technologies within the SAARC region;
• To minimize disparities within and among Member States in the telecommunications
• To harness telecommunication technology for the social and economic upliftment of the
region through infrastructure development by optimal sharing of available resources and
enhanced cooperation in technology transfer, standardization and human resource
development; and
• To evolve a coordinated approach on issues of common concern in international
telecommunications fora.

In order to achieve these goals and objectives, the Ministers adopted the Revised SAARC Plan of
Action on Telecommunications.

The Second Conference also adopted Common Position on issues of concern to the region in
Telecommunications sector that was presented at the World Summit for Information Society
(WSIS), held in Tunis in November 2005. The Conference felt the need to have more concerted
endeavours to address the issue of digital divide and urged the Member States to share their
successful initiatives for development of ICT within the region. It decided that fellowships and
training programmes for the development of human resources would be offered by Member

The Working Group on Telecommunications and ICT was established. by the Council. of
Ministers during its Twenty-fourth Session held in Islamabad in January 2004. This was done
after a comprehensive review of the SAARC Integrated Programme of Action by the Standing
Committee at its Fourth Special Session held in Kathmandu in August 2003.

The First Meeting of Working Group on Telecommunications and ICT was held in Ghaziabad,
India on 21-22 September 2004 which considered measures for effective and early
implementation of the SAARC Plan of Action on Telecommunications – 2004 adopted by the
Second Conference of SAARC Communications Ministers.

The Second Meeting of the Working Group on Telecommunications and Information and
Communication Technology, held in New Delhi on 3-4 April 2008. The Meeting observed that
Member States have made substantial progress in digitalization of inter-country links. The
Meeting also agreed for the sharing of successful experiences in R&D as well as access to new
technologies and posting of such information on the website of SAARC Secretariat The Meeting
emphasized to meet at least annually.

At the Fifteenth SAARC Summit, Colombo, 2-3 August 2008, the Leaders observed that an
effective and economical regional tele-communication regime is an essential factor of
connectivity, encouraging the growth of people-centric partnerships. They stressed the need for
the Member States to endeavour to move towards a uniformly applicable low tariff, for
international direct dial calls within the region.

The Third Meeting of the Working Group on Telecommunications and Information and
Communication Technology was held in Ghaziabad, India on 3-4 March 2009. The Meeting
discussed on the proposal of Up gradation of National and Regional Telecom Infrastructure and
agreed in principle that the capacity of the existing inter country links needs to be increased; that
the maximizing the use of terrestrial system such as optical fiber, microwave link and that the
growth of telecom traffic, both voice and data meant for SAARC countries will require to remain
within the region. The Meeting decided that India may start taking necessary action with the
objective to set up South Asian Postal Union as proposed. The Meeting was informed that the
commissioning of the project on Tele-Education E-Network requires signing of an MOU and
recommended that the Member States may sign MOU to this effect in next six months. The
Meeting also discussed on various issues Cross-border interference of Radio signals, Revision of
accounting rates and collection charges among SAARC Countries, Multilateral utilization of
terrestrial communications routes among SAARC countries, Cyber Security etc.

The Government of India offered to host the Fourth Meeting of the Working Group on
Telecommunications and ICT in the first week of April 2010.


Tremendous progress in the field of information and knowledge-based industry have made the
world as ‘global village’. It has brought radical changes in the life of the people. SAARC,
therefore, has always given high priority on the dissemination of information about SAARC and
its member countries. Various mechanisms like meetings of Information Ministers, Heads of
National TV, Radio and News Agencies, Editors and Working Journalists, Technical Experts on
Digitization for Television and Radio in Member Countries and SAVE Committee have been
created for enhancing regional cooperation. These bodies meet periodically; take stock of the
progress made in the implementation of their earlier decisions; and chalk out new programmes
and activities to further strengthen cooperation in the information and media matters among
member countries.


Initially, the body consisting of Heads of National TV and Radio organizations of member
countries was created in 1998 as a supervisory body to monitor the activities of the SAVE
Committee. In due course, its role has been expanded including recommendations on policy level
decisions to the Information Ministers pertaining to strengthening the electronic media in
member countries.
The Plan of Action on Media and Information-1998 called for annual meetings of the Heads of
TV/Radio Organizations of Member Countries. Accordingly, the first meeting took place in New
Delhi in November 1999, which reviewed the activities of the SAVE Committee and made
recommendations to improve the quality of SAVE programmes. Similarly, the second meeting in
Islamabad in January 2003 decided that weekly Radio news entitled "SAARC News" of 5-10
minutes duration as well as a monthly programme of 15 minutes entitled "SAARC Roundup" for
TV would go on air from February 2003. This was decided as per the directives of the SAARC
Information Ministers, who emphasized on daily exchange of TV and Radio news among
Member Countries.

The third meeting also reviewed the progress in the implementation of the Plan of Action on
Media and Information, which was adopted by Information Ministers with the objective to
encourage free flow of information and to strengthen cooperation in the field of media. With the
rapid emergence of digital technology, the meeting felt that establishment of a gradual Digitized
Technology for TV and Radio is desirable.

At the Fourth Meeting of the Heads of National TV, Radio and News Agencies held in Colombo,
the Heads of News Agencies were included in accordance with the decision of the Fifth Meeting
of SAARC Information Ministers. The Meeting welcomed the offer of Sri Lanka to hold the
‘SAARC Feature Film Festival’ in 2007. It appreciated the outcome of the first meeting of
Technical Experts on Digitalization of Technology in the fields of TV and Radio. It agreed that
this Expert Group might continue to work for supporting smooth transition to digitalization of

The Meeting deliberated on the Concept Paper prepared by Pakistan on the establishment of a
‘SAARC Television Channel’. On this issue, the thirty-third session of the Standing Committee
(31 March-1 April 2007) decided to commission a feasibility study. The SAARC Secretariat is
pursuing this matter with the Member States.

The Meeting discussed the performance of the SAVE Committee, especially its progress on the
production of video documentary on ‘SAARC in the New Millennium’ and the modalities to
institutionalize the SAVE Award. It agreed that the activities of the SAVE Committee should be
realistic and feasible.

As regards the modalities to institutionalize the SAVE Award, the Meeting was of the view that
the jury should constitute of this body and sit on the sidelines of the Fifth Meeting of the Heads
of National Television, Radio and News Agencies of SAARC Countries. It discussed the
implementation of the revised Plan of Action on Information and Media and stressed that
Member States should make endeavours for the effective implementation of the decisions taken
at different forum of SAARC bodies on media and information. It decided to observe the year
2008 as the ‘SAARC Media Year’.


The information and communications technology is an evolving concept that has reached at
different levels in Member Countries, reflecting the different stages of development.
Technological and other change is rapidly transforming the environment in which the
information societies are to be developed. Noting the satisfactory implementation of the SAARC
Plan of Action on Media and Information adopted in 1998, the SAARC Information Ministers at
their Third Meeting held in New Delhi in November 2003 directed that in order to address new
challenges emerging in the knowledge based industries due to rapid developments in the
technology, the Plan of Action on Information and Media be revised.

This revised Plan of Action is basically a conceptual plan to promote information and media for
achieving SAARC goals, devise mechanism for utilizing the potential of information and
knowledge for development purposes, and address new challenges including digital divide in the
Member Countries.

The Plan of Action on Information and Media, incorporating therein some on-going activities
from the earlier Plan of Action is reproduced below:

1. Ensure free flow of information, newspapers, periodicals, books and other publications.
2. Request concerned authorities to reduce postal and telecommunication rates for media
transmission and information materials.
3. Hold annual meetings of heads of national radio, TV and news agencies of SAARC
member countries
4. Evolve model guidelines on transnational satellite broadcasting in the region.
5. Cooperation in exchange of information between national news agencies of member
countries may be encouraged.
6. Recommendations of the Third Meeting of the SAARC Information Ministers with
regard to relaxation of the visa regime for accredited journalists be implemented on the
basis of reciprocity.
7. Organize teleconferencing for SAVE and other SAARC activities and publicity.
8. Special programmes for forthcoming SAARC designated Years be developed by TV and
Radio organizations as well as by print media.
9. Establish a Digital Technology Forum.
10. Produce video documentaries on “SAARC in the New Millennium” in a phased manner
with translation into national languages of member countries for viewing in SAARC
11. The year 2007 may be observed as the SAARC Media Year.

The Meeting evolved a following SAARC Common Position reinforcing the WSIS principles
related to information and media development that was presented at the World Summit on the
Information Society held in Tunis in November 2005.

1. It is proposed that the SAARC countries take the following common position reinforcing
the WSIS principles related to information and media development:
o Improve free flow of information in the member countries by building adequate
communication network and creating appropriate legal and institutional systems.
o Develop regional networks and associations amongst media organizations.
o Ensure information is accessible to everyone and technology is affordable to
o Encourage and support public service broadcasting.
o Encourage projection of development activities and other achievements in
different fields through media in South Asia.
o Enhance regional cooperation in the area of capacity building, research and
human resource development.
2. Furthermore, it is proposed that the goals, objectives and targets set in the Geneva Plan of
Action by WSIS be pursued by SAARC member countries in accordance with their
means and circumstances, and that each SAARC member country may follow a specific
Action Plan.
3. SAARC member countries will continue to pursue freedom of expression and plurality of
media including promotion of private electronic channels.
4. SAARC member countries will continue to promote peace and fundamental values of
freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance and shared responsibility through their media.
5. SAARC member countries will invest in technological and institutional solutions to
promote universal access to media.
6. SAARC member countries will accelerate the steps to strengthen cooperation in
institution building and training of media personnel.
7. SAARC member countries will share information on technological developments and
assist each other in development of regional media structures.
8. SAARC will invite international cooperation for implementation of spelt out goals and
objectives of Geneva Action Plan under its mandate.

The SAARC Information Ministers held their Fifth Meeting in Kathmandu on 29-30 August
2005. They discussed on the Establishment of a Regulatory Framework to balance functioning
between the private channels and the public service broadcasters in SAARC Countries. The
Meeting reviewed the status of implementation of SAARC News Programmes for TV and Radio.
It advised the SAVE Committee for holding of more SAARC activities through
teleconferencing. On the issue of the production of Video Documentary on “SAARC in the New
Millennium by the Pakistan Television, the Meeting requested the delegate from Pakistan to
complete the documentary as soon as possible. The Documentary is yet to be delivered by the
Pakistan Television for circulation to the Member States.

The Meeting deliberated on the Concept Paper on model guidelines on transnational satellite
broadcasting in the region. It decided that the issue of transnational satellite Radio broadcasting
should also be covered under the same subject.

The Meeting formulated and adopted SAARC common position.

At the Meeting, functioning of the Heads of National organizations was reviewed and
recommended for including the Heads of National News Agencies in its next Meeting.

The Information Minister from Pakistan proposed the establishment of SAARC Television
Channel. In this context, the Meeting requested Pakistan to prepare a concept paper. It requested
the next meeting of the Heads of TV and Radio organization to work out the technical details and
report to the next meeting of the SAARC Information Ministers


(Geneva, 10-12 December 2003)

We, the Information Ministers and the representatives of the Member States of the South Asian
Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) met at New Delhi on 11-12 November 2003
and agreed to submit a SAARC common position on issues pertaining to information and
telecommunications before the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS), scheduled to be
held in Geneva from 10-12 December 2003;

Recalling the Resolution 73 of the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference, Minneapolis, 1998 and also
Resolutions 56/183 (11January 2002) and 56/258 (4 April 2002) adopted by UN General
Assembly regarding Summit on Information Society and General Assembly Meeting devoted to
Information and Communication Technologies for development respectively;

Recalling the directives of the Tenth SAARC Summit that SAARC Countries coordinate their
positions on issues of common interest at international and other fora;

Recalling also the recommendations of the First Meeting of the SAARC Information Ministers
(Dhaka, April 1998), and the Dhaka Communiqué – a SAARC Plan of Action on Media and
Information and also decision of the SAARC Council of Ministers at its Twenty-second Session
in Kathmandu in December 2001, for evolving a common position at the World Summit on
Information Society;

Emphasizing the need of the commitment at the national, regional and international levels to
promote knowledge on information and communication technologies for the development of
SAARC region;

Recognizing that media and communication are of pivotal importance in promoting regional

Expressing the hope that the international community would forge at various international
conferences and meetings having a bearing on issues relating to ICT, including Digital Divide;

Noting that the World Summit on the Information Society is expected to adopt a Declaration of
Principles and an Action Plan to facilitate the effective growth of the Information Society;

Urging the World Summit on Information Society in Geneva to be held from 10-12 December
2003 to take into account and reflect in its final outcome the following perspectives and
recommendation on ICT of the SAARC Member States to:

i. Adopt policy of assisting and expanding community based telecasters,

particularly in rural areas with facilities of television, internet, email,
telephone and radio.
ii. Devise an appropriate globally enforceable legal instrument to combat cyber
iii. Improve free flow of information in the developing world by building adequate
communication network.
iv. Promote close relations between the international news agencies and
regional news agencies.
v. Ensure that information is accessible and technology is affordable by all.
vi. Encourage and support public service broadcasting.
vii. Enhance cooperation in the areas of capacity building, research activities,
information sharing and human resource development.
viii. Encourage projection of development activities and other achievements in
different fields through media in the region.
ix. Stress the importance of developing information and communication
technologies (ICT) networks in developing countries to reinforce the process
of economic cooperation.
x. Treat ICT as a multi-faceted process enhancing socio-economic development
in the region and not purely as a source of revenue.
xi. Acquire optimum benefits for all sectors, particularly the rural; it is proposed
that specific strategies conducive to regional cooperation be adopted.
xii. Minimize disparities in the use of ICT to bridge the digital divide and to
develop the information society, and
xiii. Harness telecommunication technology (e.g. distance learning, tele-medicine,
e-governance, and e-commerce) for the social and economic upliftment of
the region.

The development of media in each country, based on the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, is crucial to any conception of the Information Society. Freedom of access to and use of
information for the creation, accumulation and dissemination of knowledge are important
principles of the Information Society. Traditional media in all its forms will continue to have an
important role in the Information Society and ICTs should play a supportive role in this regard.

Revised SAARC Plan of Action on

1. Telecom tariffs within the SAARC region should be reduced to the lowest extent feasible
within the framework of cost orientation based on International benchmarks.
2. For intra-regional traffic within SAARC countries, efforts should be made to utilize
either direct links or hubbing / transit facility within the region by 2005.
3. Member States should offer special rates for transiting /hubbing regional traffic and
utilize the facilities of other members for their overflow traffic. For this purpose, licensed
International long distance operators should be encouraged to frequently negotiate
agreements for offering lowest possible tariffs.
4. Intra-regional communications for the traveler and entrepreneur should be facilitated by
promotion of country direct services, calling cards, cellular roaming and liberalized
leased lines within the regulatory frameworks of the Member States. For this purpose
Member States should encourage:
i. complete digitalization of inter-country links as early as possible;
ii. settlement of inter operator revenues in line with timeframe set under
International Telecommunication Regulations;
iii. calling card services by facilitating centralized or decentralized credit verification
iv. cellular roaming facility within the region; and
v. examining the feasibility of establishing an intra-regional high bandwidth hub for
leased lines.
5. Member States should promote R&D activities and exchange of expertise in
telecommunications disciplines.
6. The development of human resources in the telecom sector should be enhanced through
greater cooperation and better utilization of the existing training facilities in the region.
For implementation Member countries should be encouraged to provide fellowships.
7. While liberalizing telecommunication services, Member States should give priority to

a. universal access;
b. development of rural services with affordable tariffs; and
c. viable incentives to service providers to achieve these goals.
2. Member States should consult at multiple levels among communications ministries and
regulatory authorities to evolve common positions on issues of regional concern on
telecommunications at international fora.
3. Member States should encourage cooperation among regulatory authorities and
administrations to develop policies to increase the tele-density and access to Information
and Communication Technologies (ICT) at affordable tariffs.
4. Member States should cooperate in the development of plans and for utilization of ICT in
E-Commerce, Health Care, Education and other areas by exchange of information and

SAARC Regional Centres

The SAARC Secretariat is supported by following Regional Centres established in Member
States to promote regional cooperation. These Centres are managed by Governing Boards
comprising representatives from 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 Standing Committee.

1. SAARC Agricultural Information Centre (SAIC), Dhaka

2. SAARC Meteorological Research Centre (SMRC), Dhaka
3. SAARC Tuberculosis Centre (STC), Kathmandu
4. SAARC Documentation Centre (SDC), New Delhi
5. SAARC Human Resources Development Centre (SHRDC), Islamabad
6. SAARC Coastal Zone Management Centre, Maldives
7. SAARC Information Centre, Nepal
8. SAARC Energy Centre, Pakistan
9. SAARC Disaster Management Centre, India
10. SAARC Cultural Centre, Sri Lanka
11. SAARC Forestry Centre, Bhutan

SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement

The Agreement on SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA)[28] was signed on 11

April 1993 and entered into force on 7 December 1995, with the desire of the Member States of
SAARC (India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan and the Maldives) to promote
and sustain mutual trade and economic cooperation within the SAARC region through the
exchange of concessions.

The establishment of an Inter-Governmental Group (IGG) to formulate an agreement to establish

a SAPTA by 1997 was approved in the Sixth Summit of SAARC held in Colombo in December

The basic principles underlying SAPTA are:

1. overall reciprocity and mutuality of advantages so as to benefit equitably all

Contracting States, taking into account their respective level of economic and
industrial development, the pattern of their external trade, and trade and
tariff policies and systems;
2. negotiation of tariff reform step by step, improved and extended in
successive stages through periodic reviews;
3. recognition of the special needs of the Least Developed Contracting States
and agreement on concrete preferential measures in their favour;
4. inclusion of all products, manufactures and commodities in their raw, semi-
processed and processed forms.

So far, four rounds of trade negotiations have been concluded under SAPTA covering over 5000

[edit] South Asian Free Trade Area

See also: Free trade area
The Agreement on the South Asian Free Trade Area is an agreement reached at the 12th SAARC
summit at Islamabad, capital of Pakistan on 6 January 2004. It creates a framework for the
creation of a free trade area covering 1.4 billion people in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka,
Bangladesh, Bhutan and the Maldives.The seven foreign ministers of the region signed a
framework agreement on SAFTA with zero customs duty on the trade of practically all products
in the region by end 2016. The new agreement i.e. SAFTA, came into being on 1 January 2006
and will be operational following the ratification of the agreement by the seven governments.
SAFTA requires the developing countries in South Asia, that is, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, to
bring their duties down to 20 percent in the first phase of the two year period ending in 2007. In
the final five year phase ending 2012, the 20 percent duty will be reduced to zero in a series of
annual cuts. The least developed nations in South Asia consisting of Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh
and Maldives have an additional three years to reduce tariffs to zero. India and Pakistan have
signed but not ratified the treaty.[29].

[edit] See also