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. It was established on December 8, 1985 by India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives and Bhutan. In April 2007, at the Association's 14th summit, Afghanistan became its eighth member.
- Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
- Islamic Republic of Pakistan
- Republic of India
- State of Nepal
- Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
- People's Republic of Bangladesh
- Kingdom of Bhutan
- Republic of Maldives
In the late 1970s, Bangladesh's president Ziaur Rahman proposed the creation of a trade bloc consisting of South Asian countries. The Bangladeshi proposal was accepted by India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka during a meeting held in Colombo in 1981. In August 1983, the leaders adopted the Declaration on South Asian Regional Cooperation during a summit which was held in New Delhi. The seven South Asian countries, which also included Nepal, Maldives and Bhutan, agreed on five areas of cooperation:
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Telecommunications, Science, Technology and Meteorology
- Health and Population Activities
- Human Resource Development
Afghanistan was added to the regional grouping at the behest of India on November 13, 2005, and became a member on April 3, 2007. With the addition of Afghanistan, the total number of member states were raised to eight (8). In April 2006, the United States of America and South Korea made formal requests to be granted observer status. The European Union has also indicated interest in being given observer status, and made a formal request for the same to the SAARC Council of Ministers meeting in July 2006. On August 2, 2006 the foreign ministers of the SAARC countries agreed in principle to grant observer status to the US, South Korea and the European Union. On 4 March 2007, Iran requested observer status.
The SAARC Secretariat was established in Kathmandu on 16 January 1987. Its role is to coordinate and monitor the implementation of SAARC activities, service the meetings of the Association and serve as the channel of communication between SAARC and other international organisations. The Secretariat has also been increasingly utilised as the venue for SAARC meetings.
The SAARC Secretariat is supported by Regional Centres established in Member Countries 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.
- SAARC Agricultural Information Centre (SAIC), Dhaka
- SAARC Meteorological Research Centre (SMRC), Dhaka
- SAARC Tuberculosis Centre (STC), Kathmandu
- SAARC Documentation Centre (SDC), New Delhi
- SAARC Human Resources Development Centre (SHRDC), Islamabad
- SAARC Coastal Zone Management Centre, Maldives
- SAARC Information Centre, Nepal
- SAARC Energy Centre, Pakistan
- SAARC Disaster Management Centre, India
Centres Being Established
The following two Regional Centres are in the process of being established.
- SAARC Cultural Centre, Sri Lanka
- SAARC Forestry Centre, Bhutan