What is South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) ? The SAARC is an organisation of South Asian nations. In the late 1970’s, President Zia-ur Rahman, proposed the creation of 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 heads of Seven South Asian Countries of SAARC i.e. Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka signed the charter to establish the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) on 8th December, 1985. Afghanistan joined SAARC as a Member at the Fourteenth Delhi SAARC Summit in April 2007. What are the main objectives of SAARC ? 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 realise their full potentials 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 interests; and To cooperate with international and regional organisations with similar aims and purposes. What are the Principles of SAARC? Cooperation within the framework of the ASSOCIATION shall be based on respect for the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, political independence, noninterference in the internal affairs of other States and mutual benefit. Such cooperation shall not be a substitute for bilateral and multilateral cooperation but shall complement them. Such cooperation shall not be inconsistent with bilateral and multilateral obligations. What is SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Area)? SAPTA 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 Economic Union. In 1995, the 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. 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 1st July 2006. Following the Agreement coming into force the SAFTA Ministerial Council (SMC) has been established comprising the Commerce Ministers of the Member States. To assist the SMC, a SAFTA Committee of Experts (SCOE) has been formed. SCOE is expected to submit its report to SMC every six months. The SAFTA Agreement states


YOJANA December 2011

Closing the summit. Each Contracting State shall chair the SMC for a period of one year on rotational basis in alphabetical order. strengthening investment and enhancing connectivity. New Delhi SAARC Human Resources Development Centre (SHRDC). These Centres are managed by Governing Boards comprising representatives from all the Member States. Further. expected some time in 2012. who is appointed by the Council of Ministers from Member States in alphabatical order for a three year term. Islamabad SAARC Coastal Zone Management Centre (SCZMC). The SAARC Secretariat and Member States observe 8 December as the SAARC Charter Day. the host and chair. The regional centres are. Sri Lanka Working Group on Energy Working Group on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Working Group on Tourism What are the Regional Centres of SAARC? The SAARC Secretariat is supported by following Regional Centres established in Member States to promote regional cooperation. It coordinates and monitors implementation of activities. SAARC SAARC Summit in Maldives The curtain came down on the Seventeenth-SAARC summit in Addu (Maldives) recently with the South Asian grouping's leaders pushing for trade liberalisation and a host of initiatives that include setting up a Rapid Action Force to combat natural disasters. What are the Working groups of SAARC? Wo r k i n g G r o u p s ( W G ) formulate and over see programmes and activities within the framework of SAARC to strengthen and promote regional cooperation in their respective areas. Dhaka SAARC Tuberculosis Centre (STC). Maldives President Mohammad Nasheed. they would also propose mechanisms and sources of finance to implement them.that the “the SMC shall meet at least once every year or more oftenas and when considered necessary by the Contracting States. Bhutan SAARC Cultural Centre (SCC). monitor and evaluate programmes in this regard. prepares for and services meetings.” Where is the Secretariat situated and how it functions? The SAARC Secretariat is based in Kathmandu. The Director of the Centre acts as Member Secretary to the Governing Board which reports to the Programming Committee. The SAARC leaders also directed the finance ministers of their countries to explore avenues for more investment in the region. Nepal SAARC Energy Centre (SEC). Nepal. YOJANA December 2011 33 . announced a set of decisions that included commitments to reducing trade barriers. Nasheed also thanked India for its initiative in deciding to reduce the sensitive lists for the least developed countries under SAFTA from 480 tariff lines (categories in a country's tariff schedule) to 25. It was decided by consensus to direct the SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Agreement) ministerial council to reduce the sensitive list and non-tariff barriers. Maldives SAARC Information Centre (SIC). SAARC Agricultural Centre (SAC). Pakistan SAARC Disaster Management Centre (SDMC). Dhaka SAARC Meteorological Research Centre (SMRC). Kathmandu SAARC Documentation Centre (SDC). and serves as a channel of communication between the Association and its Member States as well as other regional organisations. India SAARC Forestry Centre (SFC). The WGs coordinate. Nasheed also announced Nepal will host the 18th SAARC summit in 2012. In recommending target-bound programmes and activities. Following WGs meet regularly to provide inputs on their respective areas of co-operation: Wo r k i n g G r o u p Biotechnology on Secretary-General and the Ministry of Foreign/External Affairs of the Host Government. They also decided to conclude a railway agreement and a motor vehicles agreement before the next meeting of the SAARC council of ministers. they would also carry out the directives emanating from SAARC higher bodies. The Secretariat is headed by the Secretary General.

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