SAARC Introduction and Background: In December 1985 heads of state of south Asia viz Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Srilanka, Bhutan, Nepal, and the Maldives held a summit at Dhaka. After due deliberation, they decided to set up a secretariat and issued a declaration for the creation of the South Asian Association.
SAARC’s full form is South Asia Association for Regional Organization. It is noteworthy that the idea of the creation of a Regional Organization was given by the President Zia-ur-Rehman of Bangladesh, So the whole credit goes to him.
Regional trading blocks have grown up in all over the world owing to new economic realities and challenges faced by the nation-state in the present-day world.
There are many regional organization that exists such as European Union, EFTA, OAU, OAS, NAFTA, ECO, ASEAN, etc. The primary objective behind the formation of all these organizations is economic integration.
In view of the constant conflicts among the South Asian States, Some scholars predicted that the status of cooperation in this region doesn’t seem to be very bright. But if countries like France and Britain can engage in regional cooperation in the shape of EEC, why do the South Asian States can’t cooperate? These are some factors that enforce the South Asian States to collaborate with each other.
- The growing interruption of major powers in the internal affairs of South Asia.
- They can compete with developed states economically if they attain self-reliance through mutual cooperation.
- The presence of western powers in the Indian Ocean also poses a serious threat to the freedom of the region.
So there are many other factors enforced South Asian nations to create their own regional organization which is known as SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation).
GUIDING PRINCIPLE OF SAARC:
Clear-cut rules have been spelled out and these rules require firm responsibility from all the South Asian states. The cooperation among South Asian countries will not be a substitute for bilateral and multilateral cooperation but shall complement them.
Principles on which cooperation will be based include respect for-
- Territorial integrity
- Political independence
- Non-interference in the internal affairs of other states and mutual benefits.
OBJECTIVES OF SAARC:
The major objectives of SAARC are mentioned below.
- To advocate the welfare of the people of south Asia and to raise their standards of living.
- To advance the economic growth, social progress, and cultural development in the region.
- To promote collective self-determination among the south Asian states.
- Mutual cooperation in specialized fields and the building of trust and understanding of each other issues.
- To enhance cooperation among themselves in international forums on matters of common interest.
- Promotion of cooperation with other unstable states and regional and international organizations.
SAARC’s headquarter is located in Katmandu Nepal. The organization was created in 1985. The basic aim behind the organization was the economic development of the region.
STRUCTURE OF SAARC:
It was decided in the very first meeting in December 1985 that the heads of the SAARC states shall meet annually and a council of ministers consisting of foreign ministers of the member states shall be constituted to formulate policies and to review the progress of cooperation.
The council of ministers shall be invited by foreign secretaries. A technical committee was also set up comprising the representatives of member states which will implement and monitor programs and projects. The Secretariat of SAARC has been established in Katmandu Nepal.
Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan are the member countries of the organization.
POLITICAL RELEVANCE OF SAARC:
Every regional organization is relevant to the peace and stability of the region. SAARC has also this aim and this makes it politically relevant. The political role of SAARC is evident because of the existing strained relations between the SAARC states.
In South Asia, India is on one side, while all are on the other. The inequalities are inbuilt with respect to geographical dimensions, demographic magnitude, economic resource bases, production structure, and above all their military capabilities.
Small states look with suspicion towards India because it is a hegemonic power. SAARC by the principle of equality and consensus give them a sense of security. Various summits of SAARC provide the leader to voice their concern over some contentious issues.
In the fourth summit in Islamabad Prime Minister Rajive Gandhi signed three agreements with Pakistan which eased the prevailing tension. At the ninth summit at Malee in 1997 Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Gujral met and discussed bilateral issues, this meeting was followed by foreign secretaries level talks.
Similarly, after the nuclear tests in May 19998, the leaders of both states met for the first time at the SAARC forum. In the same manner, an informal meeting from the SAARC forum proved important with regard to relations between Sri Lanka and India, when Sri Lanka was seriously facing an ethnic crisis, and also between India and Bangladesh with regard to Ganga’s water conflict.
ACHIEVEMENT OF SAARC:
Though the progress pace of SAARC has been very slow, it can’t be denied that SAARC has sought to promote cooperation in a wide area. Following are the achievements of SAARC.
- SAARC has developed an understanding among the member which has led to the reduction of tension in the region.
- The regional convention on suppression of terrorism signed by foreign ministers during the Kathmandu summit came into force in August 1988.
- Establishment of Food Security Reserve Programme.
- The establishment of SAVE (Audio Vidio Programme broadcast items of popular interest).
- Substantial progress has been made in the launching of the South Asian Tourism Scheme.
- The member states have devised modalities for confronting many important issues such as poverty, terrorism, drug trafficking, etc.
- Institutional arrangements such as the South Asian Development Bank, South Asian Development Fund, etc have been initiated.
- An understanding has been established between India and Bangladesh on Ganga’s water.
CAUSES OF THE FAILURE OF SAARC:
There are many causes that are contributing to the failure of SAARC and are constantly hampering the cooperative efforts of SAARC. These are as follows.
1. INTERNAL INSTABILITY:
Almost all of the member states of SAARC are confronted with internal political tension. The lower level of economic development has much to do with such internal instability managing and controlling such an insatiable situation requires much of the time and potential of the governments concerned.
In this regard, the example of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka can be quoted, as all of them are facing the problem of political instability. This political instability in a country seriously undermines the government’s efforts to pay heed to the social, economic, and technological sectors of the government.
2. BILITERAL DISPUTES:
Existing bilateral disputes are a constant impediment in the way of SAARC. The most influential well developed can contribute a lot to regional development but unfortunately, these two giants are locked in an external conflict which needs quick resolution i.e. the conflict over Kashmir, similarly, India and Sri Lanka have rifts.
These disputes are not only affecting the proper functioning of Regional Cooperation but are also responsible for the poor social and economic development of these states as well.
3. CONSTITUTIONAL FLAWS:
As the member states are having rifts between and among each other, so they don’t allow the discussion of bilateral disputes. So the task of amending the charter or adding new clauses becomes extremely difficult in the absence of consensus among various member states.
CHALLENGES TO SAARC:
Though SAARC has not played such an active role in resolving the differences among member states. But in other fields, it has made considerable progress, but still, it is confronted with numerous challenges which it must overcome. These are
- The bitter political climate of the region is the hurdle in the way of Regional cooperation.
- The disparities in the regional resources of various member states hamper the growth of true cooperation in the region.
- Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka are comparatively more developed than the rest of the member states. These states always are apprehensive of their powerful status.
- The inadequacy of transport and communication constitutes an impediment to the way of smooth working of the Asian Association.
- There are some procedural shortcomings in the organization. Firstly it is in the charter of the South Asian Association that bilateral issues would not be discussed in the summits. Secondly, it operates on the principle of unanimity.
- These provisions should be made flexible and bilateral discussion should be encouraged because it will help in fostering mutual goodwill and cooperation.
It is time that all the present South Asian Regional Associations are far from the stage where EEC and ASEAN stand but it can’t be denied that a small beginning has been made in this direction and the formation of the organization would produce far-reaching results in the long run.
It will not be wrong to say that the future of the organization to a greater extent mainly on the normalization of the relations between the big two of the organization namely Pakistan and India.
The Secretary General of SAARC “Abdul Ahsan” once said;
“No doubt the SAARC organization is still a long way from addressing the deep-rooted suspicions and outstanding problems in the region, but experience has shown that discussion during its meetings though informal in nature and outside its framework has opened a new horizon for South Asia.
How many countries are SAARC?
The member countries of Saarc are 8. These are Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Buthan, and Bangladesh.
Who is the founder of SAARC?
President Zia Ur Rehman of Bangladesh is the founder of the SAARC organization.
Where is headquarter of SAARC?
The Headquarter of SAARC is located in Katmandu Nepal