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Saturday, July 4, 2009

SAARC Summit 2004 Islamabad. (2004-1)

The idea of a regional association in South Asia was first mooted in Nov-1980. It met with a positive response from the Govts. of South Asian Countries viz Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It was realized that the countries of the region which constituted one-fifth of humanity were faced with formidable challenges posed by poverty, under development, low levels of production, unemployment and population explosion. It was felt that in view of many common values rooted in their social, cultural and political traditions, regional cooperation provided a logical response to these problems. It was further understood that an effective regional cooperation, alongwith leading to optimum utilization of their respective capacities for the benefit of their peoples, could accelerate the pace of their economic development and enhance their individual and collective self-reliance.

Following consultations amongst the countries of the region, the Foreign Secretaries of the seven countries met for the first time in Colombo in April, 1981. At this meeting, the concept of the South Asian Regional Cooperation was launched with the agreement of the regional countries to commission feasibility studies for cooperation in various fields. The subsequent meetings of the Foreign Secretaries and then the Foreign Ministers of 'the countries of the region identified eleven areas of cooperation which included Agriculture and Forestry, Health and Population, Meteorology, Rural Development, Telecommunications, Transport, Science and Technology, Postal Services, Sports, Arts and Culture, Drug Trafficking and Women Development. The Foreign Ministers stressed that increasing emphasis should be placed on operational activities and the formulation of regional projects with the object of implementing the integrated Programme of action.

The first SAARC Summit was held at Dhaka on Dec. 7-8, 1985 and with the signing of the Charter of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation on 8th Dec. 1988 the SAARC was established.

The main objectives of the Association are to promote the welfare of the people of South Asia and to improve their quality of life, to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region, to cultivate collective self-reliance among the countries of South. Asia, to contribute to mutual trust and understanding, promotion of active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields and to strengthen cooperation among themselves at international forums on matters of common interests. The underlying principles of the SAARC are based on respect for the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, political independence, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states and mutual benefits.

The activities of the SAARC are planned and regulated through various organizations. The highest decision making authority in the SAARC rests with the Heads of the States/Govts. They meet once a year or more often as and when necessary. The council of Ministers meets twice a year and is, interalia, responsible for formulation of policy. The standing Committee comprising Foreign Secretaries meets as often as deemed necessary and reviews progress of SAARC activities, approves projects and programmes and decides on the modalities of their financing. Technical Committees are responsible for the implementation, coordination and monitoring of the programmes besides identifying new areas of cooperation arid preparation of projects.

The integrated programme of action constitutes the overall activities undertaken under the aegis of SAARC. The respective Technical Committees take due notice of the implementation of the programme of action. With the endeavors of these Committees, various regional institutions have been established while a few are under active consideration of respective Technical committees.

Since establishment of SAARC eleven Summit Meetings have been held in different member countries which is clear manifestation of determination of the Govts. of the member countries to cooperate regionally, to work together towards the solution of their common problems in a spirit of friendship, trust and understanding and to the creation of an order based on mutual respect, equality and shared benefits.

At the twelfth SAARC Summit the focus is on issues pertaining to regional cooperation, social charter, eradication of poverty, science and technology, human resource development, agriculture, information and trade relations between the regional countries. Date of Issue (January 04, 2004)