The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was established through the formal adoption of its charter on December 8, 1985 by the Governments of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In 2007 Afghanistan joined the association as its eighth member. Its secretariat is in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Its declared objective is for the people of South Asia to work together in a spirit of friendship, trust and understanding in order to accelerate the process of economic and social development in the region.
The eleventh summit held in Kathmandu (2002) provided further impetus to the SAARC vision as the leaders agreed to accelerate cooperation in the core areas of trade, finance and investment for the gradual realization of an integrated South Asian economy. Further stimulus came in the next summit (Islamabad, 2004) through the establishment of SAARCFINANCE with the responsibility to study and make recommendations for the realization of a South Asian Economic Union (SAEU). It was also asked to examine the concept of a South Asian Development Bank.
A closer cooperation between the members of the SAARC countries is essential for realizing the full potential of the region in the comity of nations. The shared history and common socio-cultural ties of the people can be utilized to bring in overall stability and prosperity of this region. It is unfortunate to note that the political relations among some of the members are not ideal, affecting socio-economic relationships of the people to a large extent.
The establishment of the South Asian University in New Delhi, the SAARC Standards Regional Organization in Dhaka and the SAARC Arbitration Council in Islamabad, however, indicate a positive trend. These developments show a gradual shift in the evolution of SAARC from a declaratory phase to an implementation phase. We hope this trend will continue and all member countries will demonstrate their commitment for realization of full potential of the region.