The idea of a regional association in
It was realised 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
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 Techno-logy, Postal Services, Sports, Arts and Culture, Drug Trafficking and Women in 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
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/Governments.
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 and preparation of projects.
The SAARC Secretariat was inaugurated in
The role of the Secretary-General and Secretariat is to coordinate and monitor the implementation of the SAARC activities, arrange the meetings of the Association and serve as channel of communication and linkage between SAARC and other inter-national organizations.
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, three Summit Meetings have been held at Dhaka (Bangladesh), Banglore (India) and Katmandu (Nepal) in 1985, 1986 and 1987 respectively which is clear manifestation of determination of the governments 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.
The fourth SAARC Summit is scheduled to be held in