History and Evolution of
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
(SAARC) comprises the seven countries of South Asia, i.e. Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and
Sri Lanka. It is an Association based on the consciousness that in an increasingly interdependent world, the objectives of peace,
freedom, social justice and economic prosperity are best achieved in the South Asian region by fostering mutual
understanding, good neighbourly relations and meaningful cooperation among the Member States which are bound by
ties of history and culture.
The idea of regional cooperation in South Asia was first mooted in May 1980. After consultations, the Foreign
Secretaries of the seven countries met for the first time in Colombo in April 1981. This was followed by a meeting of the
Committee of the Whole in Colombo in August-September 1981, which identified five broad areas for regional
cooperation. The Foreign Ministers of South Asia, at their first meeting in New Delhi in August 1983, adopted the Declaration on
South Asian Regional Cooperation (SARC) and formally launched the Integrated Programme of Action (IPA) initially in
five agreed areas of cooperation namely, Agriculture; Rural
Development; Telecommunications; Meteorology; and Health and Population Activities.
The Heads of State or Government at their First SAARC Summit held in Dhaka on 7-8 December 1985 adopted the
Charter formally establishing the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
The objectives, principles and general provisions
contained in the SAARC Charter are as follows:
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, understanding and appreciation of one anotherís problems; 2! To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance
in the economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific
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.
Cooperation within the framework of the Association is based on respect for the principles of sovereign equality,
territorial integrity, political independence, noninterference in the internal affairs of other States and
- Such cooperation is to complement and not to
substitute bilateral or multilateral cooperation; and
Such cooperation should be consistent with bilateral and multilateral obligations of Member States.
- Decisions at all levels in SAARC are to be taken on
the basis of unanimity; and
- Bilateral and contentious issues are to be excluded
from the deliberations of the Association.