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SAARC Countries, Functions, Objectives, Map, Importance

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is an economic and political organization of eight South Asian countries. Its member states are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Check out SAARC Countries, Functions, Objectives, Map, and Importance in this article.

South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation

SAARC is an organization of eight South Asian nations on the political and economic aspects. Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan served as the founding members of SAARC and formally adopted its charter in 1985. In 2007, Afghanistan became the eighth member country of SAARC. The primary goal of SAARC is to advance social improvement, economic growth, and cultural development throughout South Asia.

Additionally, SAARC aims to enhance the well-being of the people, strengthen group self-reliance, and accelerate economic and social development. Along with fostering trust and understanding among its members, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation aims to promote regional integration. All decisions must be made unanimously, and the Association does not discuss or vote on bilateral or controversial issues.

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SAARC Full Form

SAARC is a regional organization which is an abbreviation of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. At present, SAARC comprises eight member Countries of the South Asian Region.

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SAARC Headquarters

The SAARC’s headquarters and secretariat are located in Kathmandu, Nepal. On December 8th, 1985, the SAARC Charter was signed in Dhaka and established it.

SAARC Members List

There are eight member States of SAARC which are listed below:

S. No. Name of the SAARC Countries Capital City
1. Afghanistan Kabul
2. Bangladesh Dhaka/Dacca
3. Bhutan Thimphu
4. India New Delhi
5. Maldives Malé
6. Nepal Kathmandu
7. Pakistan Islamabad
8. Sri Lanka Colombo (Executive and Judicial);
Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte (Legislative)

SAARC Observer Countries

There are currently nine Observer Countries in SAARC.

S. No. Name of the SAARC Observer Countries
1. Australia
2. China
3. The European Union
4. Iran
5. Japan
6. The Republic of Korea
7. Mauritius
8. Myanmar
9. United States of America

SAARC Countries Map

For a better understanding, refer to the following SAARC Countries Map below:

Saarc map

SAARC History

In November 1980, the concept of regional cooperation in South Asia was originally proposed. In Colombo, Sri Lanka, in April 1981, the foreign secretaries of the seven founding countries, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka—met for the first time. At the 13th annual conference in 2005, Afghanistan joined SAARC as a new member.

SAARC Objectives

According to the SAARC Charter, the Association’s objectives are:

  • To advance the welfare of South Asians and to enhance their standard of living;
  • To promote the region’s economic growth, social advancement, and cultural development while giving everyone the chance to live in dignity and reach their full potential;
  • To encourage and reinforce South Asian countries’ collective self-reliance;
  • To foster understanding, trust, and respect for one another’s concerns;
  • To encourage active cooperation and mutual aid in the realms of economics, society, culture, technology, and science;
  • To improve collaboration with other emerging nations;
  • To improve their mutual cooperation in international platforms on issues of common interest; and
  • To collaborate with regional and global groups that share similar goals.

SAARC Functions

According to its charter, SAARC has the following functions:

  • To raise the standard of living of South Asians in order to improve their well-being.
  • Everybody is able to live their lives to the fullest extent of their potential and dignity, contributing to social, cultural, and economic progress.
  • To advance and reinforce the idea of self-sufficiency among South Asian nations.
  • To support the member nations in their efforts to coordinate and collaborate with other developing nations.

SAARC Principles

SAARC organization is based on the following principles that shall underpin cooperation within the SAARC framework:

  • Adherence to the values of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, political independence, non-intervention in the internal affairs of other States, and mutual benefit.
  • Bilateral and multilateral cooperation must still exist, but this new form of cooperation must enhance it.
  • Such cooperation must not conflict with duties under bilateral and multilateral agreements.

Principal Organs of SAARC

The principal Organs of SAARC are discussed below in the table:

Meeting of Heads of State or Government Usually, summits are conducted every two years and are hosted by the Member States in alphabetical order.
Standing Committee of Foreign Secretaries The Committee establishes priorities, allocates resources, monitors overall progress, and coordinates funding and project approvals.
Secretariat On January 16, 1987, the SAARC Secretariat was founded in Kathmandu. Its duties include coordinating and overseeing how SAARC activities are carried out, providing support for association meetings, and acting as a channel for communication between SAARC and other international organisations.
The secretariat consists of the secretary-general, seven directors, and general services personnel.
The Council of Ministers appoints the secretary-general on a rotating basis for a three-year non-renewable tenure.

Area of Cooperation in SAARC

There are major key areas where SAARC countries cooperate with each other,

  • Human Resource Development and Tourism
  • Agriculture and Rural Development
  • Environment, Natural Disasters and Biotechnology
  • Economic, Trade and Finance
  • Social Affairs
  • Information and Poverty Alleviation
  • Energy, Transport, Science and Technology
  • Education, Security and Culture and Others

Importance of SAARC

SAARC accounts for 3.8% (US$2.9 trillion) of the world’s GDP, 21% of its people, and 3% of its territory. Therefore, SAARC as an organization is significant for the following reasons:

  • It is one of the most fertile and heavily populated regions on Earth. The SAARC countries coordinate their efforts since they share customs, attire, food, and cultural values.
  • The common issues faced by all SAARC nations include poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition, natural disasters, internal turmoil, industrial and technological backwardness, low GDP, and poor socio-economic conditions. By raising their living standards, SAARC nations have been able to advance in common areas and find common solutions to these problems.
  • The top nations providing troops to UN peacekeeping missions are SAARC members.

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SAARC Countries FAQs

Who founded SAARC?

The SAARC Charter was ratified in Dhaka on December 8, 1985, establishing the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) which is founded by 7 countries namely India, Bangladesh, Maldives, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Where is headquarter of SAARC?

The headquarter of SAARC is established in Nepal's capital city Kathmandu.

Why SAARC is formed?

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which was founded in 1985, aims to advance the welfare of South Asians, encourage active cooperation and mutual aid, and work with global and regional organisations.

Where was SAARC's first meeting held?

The inaugural summit took place on December 7-8, 1985, in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Presidents of Bangladesh, the Maldives, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, as well as the Kings of Bhutan and Nepal and the Prime Minister of India, were present.

Who is the Secretary General of the SAARC?

On March 1st, 2020, Sri Lanka's H. E. Esala Ruwan Weerakoon was appointed Secretary General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

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