SAARC - Establishment, Achievements and Limitations

SAARC – Establishment, Achievements and Limitations

South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation

Establishment – 1985

Secretariat – Kathmandu, Nepal

Secretary -general- Arjun Bahadur Thapa

Members- India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives and Afghanistan.

Observers- Australia, China, the European Union, Iran, Japan, Mauritius, Myanmar, South Korea and the United States.

- Though SAARC covers 3% area of world but it has 21% population of the world.

- Myanmar seeks future membership while Turkey and Russia applied for observer status.

- South Asian countries have shared common culture, ethnicity, history, geography.

- Vision for SAARC in 1998, which envisaged the establishment of a South Asian Free Trade Area by 2010, a Customs Union by 2015 and an Economic Union by 2020.

- Mr. Vajpayee even advocated that the culmination of this process should be the establishment of a SAARC Monetary Union.

Regional centers

SAARC Agricultural Centre (SAC), Dhaka, Bangladesh
SAARC Meteorological Research Centre (SMRC), Dhaka, Bangladesh
SAARC Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS Centre (STAC), Kathmandu, Nepal
SAARC Documentation Centre (SDC), New Delhi, India
SAARC Human Resources Development Centre (SHRDC), Islamabad
SAARC Coastal Zone Management Centre (SCZMC), Maldives
SAARC Information Centre (SIC), Nepal
SAARC Energy Centre (SEC), Pakistan
SAARC Disaster Management Centre (SDMC), India
SAARC Forestry Centre (SFC), Bhutan
SAARC Cultural Centre (SCC), Sri Lanka
SAARC Development Fund, Bhutan

Six apex bodies

1. SAARC Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCI)
2. SAARCLAW (South Asian Association For Regional Cooperation In Law),
3. South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA)
4. South Asia Foundation (SAF)
5. South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC)
6. Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature (FOSWAL)

Achievements of SAARC

A Free Trade Agreement confined to goods, but excluding all services like information technology. Agreement was signed to reduce customs duties of all traded goods to zero by the year 2016.

South Asia Preferential Trading Agreement for promoting trade amonst the member countries came into effect in 1995.

3. SAARC visa exemption decided that certain categories of dignitaries should be entitled to a Special Travel document, which would exempt them from visas within the region.

4. Greater cultural co-operation

5. Advantages of Least Developed Countries
It has provided forum for bilateral and regional agreements to the small poor nations for collaboration among themselves for development.

Limitations of SAARC

1. Domination of India
India has 70% area amongst all SAARC countries. Also remaining small countries does not share border with each others except for Pakistan- Afghanistan.

2. Political differences
The political differences had deep negative impact on the political will to realize the economic cooperation and integration.

3. Inequality among members
The member states except India have still not reached the take-off stage to be able to pursue the program of economic integration and collaboration.

4. The South Asia Preferential Trading Agreement (SAPTA) was signed in the 7th summit at Dhaka in April 93, but it has not yet been operationalized. The proposal to establish South Asian Food Reserve and South Asian Development Fund have also met the same fate. Similarly declarations on enhancing political cooperation and promotion of mutual trust and understanding reiterated in each summit have registered limited success.

5. SAARC charter excludes bilateral and contentious issues discussion on forum

6. Obstructionist policies of Pakistan has created problems in economic cooperation

7. No progress in road and rail connectivity which is obstacle for trade.

8. Most of the countries are poor except for India and lack full fledged democratic structure.


SAARC despite these limitations and poor performance, however, remains a useful tool for smaller countries to promote understanding and cooperation at bilateral level.

SAARC and China

China currently observer state of SAARC wants to join as a member of SAARC for number of reasons

1. China is the development stakes in almost all states in the SAARC. It has been involved in several construction and infrastructure projects in these countries under its foreign policy named as pearl of string.
2. China shares a special relationship with Pakistan which will find comfortable to deal with India if china sits with Pakistan.
3. Regional stability can bring prosperity. It will facilitate the trade which will boost Chinese manufacturing industry.
4. It would have significant advantages for exports. If SAFTA came into being china will get benefits from it.

Disadvantages of membership of China

1. China might use its economic power to dominate the small nations. Small nations might become raw material suppliers only importing manufactured goods from China.

2. China will join hands with Pakistan which is already having obstructionist policies so overall efforts for regional co-operation will become fruitless.

3. China does not categorized in south asia geogrphically.It does not share historical or cultural connection, other countries as all other members shared

4. China might veto important proposals relating to South Asian development.

Advantages of membership of china

1. The SAARC is dominated by India. China's inclusion will balance the group.
2. Though all countries have relationship with China Bhutan can develop relationship with China
3. Transit route through Nepal will facilitate trade in region.The Lhasa-Naqu-Golmud railway would help in this venture.
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