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.

SAARC provides a platform for the peoples of South Asia to work together in the spirit understanding. It aims to accelerate the process of economic and social development in Member States. The upcoming 15th SAARC Summit is being held in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo on 27-28th July, 2008.


Bangladeshi president Ziaur Rahman first mooted the idea in the 1970’s for creation of a trade bloc, consisting of South Asian countries. The Foreign Secretaries of the seven countries met for the first time in Colombo in April 1981.

The Declaration on South Asian Regional Cooperation was adopted by the Foreign Ministers in 1983 in New Delhi. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation was established, when its Charter was formally adopted on December 8 1985.

Member States:

India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives and Bhutan form the principle Member States of the association.

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.


In April 2006, the United States of America and South Korea made formal requests to be granted observer status. The European Union 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.


  • To promote the welfare of the peoples 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 potential;
  • To promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia.
  • To contribute to mutual trust, understand and appreciation of one another’s problem;
  • 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.

Areas of Cooperation:

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.

The current areas of cooperation under the reconstituted Regional Integrated Programme of Action covers the following areas:

  • Agriculture and Rural Development
  • Women, Youth and Children
  • Environment and Forestry
  • Science and Technology and Meteorology
  • Human Resources Development
  • Transport

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

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