Table of Contents
- 1 Formation:
- 2 Objectives:
- 3 Principles:
- 4 Membership:
- 5 Observers:
- 6 Fields/Areas Of Cooperation:
- 7 Structure:
- 8 SAARC Summit Conference:
- 9 Council Of Ministers:
- 10 Standing Committee:
- 11 Secretariat:
- 12 Achievements:
- 13 Causes Behind Slow Progress:
- 14 Pakistan’s Role In Strengthening SAARC:
- 15 Political Issues:
- 16 Political Economy Of South Asia:
- 17 SAARC And ASEAN:
- 18 Pakistan and SAARC
- 19 Reasons for Low Trade
- 20 SAFTA
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was established in December 8, 1985 at Dhaka by Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Srilanka. The objective were to promote the welfare and improve the quality of life of the people of South Asia by accelerating economic growth in the region and building up mutual trust among the member states
The objectives of the Association as defined in the Charter are:
i) To promote the welfare of the people of South Asia and to improve their quality of life.
ii) To accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region and to provide all individuals the opportunity to live in dignity and to realize their full potential.
iii) To promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia.
iv) To contribute to mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another’s problems.
v) Too promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields,
vi) To strengthen cooperation with other developing countries.
i) The principle of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, political independence, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states and mutual benefits.
ii) The cooperation is to complement bilateral and multilateral relations.
iii) Such cooperation should be consistent with bilateral and multilateral responsibilities of the member states.
iv) Decisions at all levels are to be unanimously taken.
v) Bilateral and contentious issues would be executed from its deliberations.
in April 2007, at the Association’s 14th Summit, Afghanistan became its eighth member.
vii) Myanmar (Burma)
viii) United States
ix) South Korea
Fields/Areas Of Cooperation:
The areas of cooperation among SAARC members as decided at the time of its establishment were:
i) Agriculture and Forestry
ii) Health And Population Planning
iv) Rural Development
vii) Science and Technology
viii) Drug Trafficking And Abuse
ix) Postal Service
x) Women Development And
xi) Sports, Arts And Culture
The SAARC has four tier structure including:
i) SAARC Summit Conference
ii) Council of Minister
iii) Standing Committee
iv) Technical Committees and Secretariat
SAARC Summit Conference:
The highest decision-making authority rests with the ‘SAARC Summit Conference’ convened generally once in a year or two years, comprising Heads of State or Governments of SAARC countries.
Council Of Ministers:
The ‘Council Of Ministers’ of SAARC countries formulates policies of the organisation. The council appoints Secretary General of SAARC on the basis of rotation in alphabetical order for a period of two years, upon nomination by a member state. It meets twice a year.
The “Standing Committee of SAARC” is composed of Foreign Secretaries of member states: It approves projects and programmes. The financing of such programmes and project is also determined by the Standing Committee.
The SAARC Secretariat was established in Kathmandu on 16 January 1987 and was inaugurated by late King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah of Nepal. It is headed by a Secretary General appointed by the Council of Ministers from member countries in alphabetical order for a three-year term. He is assisted by the Professional and the General Services Staff and also an appropriate number of functional units called divisions assigned to Directors on deputation from member States. The Secretariat coordinates and monitors implementation of activities, prepares for and services meetings and serves as a channel of communication between the Association and its member states as well as other regional organisations.
Twenty-five years have passed since the establishment of SAARC in 1985.
When we analyse its achievements disappointment prevails over us.
The SAARC has not many achievements at its credit.
However, it must be kept in mind that the Association consists of countries having diversity in culture, religion, economic development, foreign policy etc.
It is itself an appreciable thing that these countries have come on one platform for their economic development.
No doubt, SAARC performance is not good as was expected, yet it has some achievement at its credit.
i) It has developed feelings of understanding among countries.
ii) It signed SAARC Regional Convention of Suppression of Terrorism in 1998.
iii) It established SAARC Food Security Reserve which is operational since 1988.
iv) The SAARC has also signed South Asia Professional Trade Agreement (SAPTA) in seventh summit in 1993 and SAFTA Agreement, signed during the 12th Summit in January 2004.
v) SAARC Agricultural Information Centre (SAIC) has been set up at Dhaka to promote cooperation in the field of agricultural.
vi) A Centre for Human Resource Development (CHRD) has also been established.
vii) The member countries have devised modalities for confronting many important issues such a poverty, terrorism, drug-trafficking etc.
viii) Institutional arrangements such as South Asian Development Bank, South Asian Development Fund etc. have been initiated.
Causes Behind Slow Progress:
A bird’s eye view of the SAARC’s achievements tells us that the performance of the Association is not satisfactory. Generally speaking, following are the reasons for the slow progress of SAARC.
i) Indian aptitude is the foremost factor for the slow progress of SAARC.
ii) There are flaws in the charter itself. According to one principle, bilateral issues are excluded from the activities of the Association.
iii) Almost all the member countries are internally unstable and faced with internal political tension.
iv) Many of the important sectors of economy which affect directly the lives of the people of the region have not been included in the Association’s activity. The areas include: reduction in the defence expenditure, power generation, improvement and proper use of regional water resources, the use of SAARC for getting financial assistance from donor agencies.
v) All the SAARC countries formulate their foreign policies according to their own national interests and objectives. This hinders to achieve any common ground and policy to make Association successful.
vi) The extra regional alignment of the member countries is also a hindrance in the progress of the Association. Their alignment often works at cross purpose to the objectives aimed by SAARC.
vii) There’s not the same level of economic development among countries. The imbalance of economic development creates tendency of domination, doubts and suspicions which create hurdles to achieve success.
Pakistan’s Role In Strengthening SAARC:
Pakistan has been an active and enthusiastic member of the SAARC. The twelfth SAARC Summit in Islamabad has highlighted Pakistan’s contribution in making SAARC a highly useful forum of South Asia. Pakistan’s tension ridden relations with India has never deterred it form playing an active role in the Association.
Pakistan played a pivotal role in the formal launching of the SAARC at the first summit at Dhaka in 1985. After the formation of SAARC, Pakistan has lived up to its commitments by taking part in all the activities of the SAARC.
The broad objectives of the SAARC were to promote the welfare of the people of South Asia, accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region. In all of SAARC’s endeavours in the relevant fields, Pakistan has shown keen interest and played an active role.
Pakistan has always played a leading role in both initiating and welcoming visits and exchanges with personalities from various fields of life in the member countries of the SAARC. It has always favoured the inclusion of mutual disputes and bilateral issues between member countries. Pakistan has argued that successful regional groupings like European Union and ASEAN use the mechanism of consultation for discussion that promote conciliation and strengthen peace.
During the first Summit Pakistan gave a suggestion that women’s participation should be increased in the SAARC related activities. The suggestion was welcomed and accepted as the SAARC leaders agreed that meaningful progress could not be achieved without the active participation and enhancement of the status of women.
In the fifth SAARC Summit meeting Pakistan vetoed Afghanistan’s application for membership of SAARC because at that time it was under the Soviet influence. In addition Pakistan condemned Iraqi occupation of Kuwait.
The sixth summit Conference of SAARC was held in Colombo on 21st December 1991. During this meeting Pakistan proposed to make Asia a nuclear free zone.
Similarly in the subsequent SAARC Summits too Pakistan made positive proposals for the promotion of political, economic and cultural cooperation among the states.
SAARC has intentionally laid more stress on “core issues” mentioned above rather than more decisive political issues like the Kashmir dispute and the Sri Lankan civil war. However, political dialogue is often conducted on the margins of SAARC meetings.
SAARC has also refrained itself from interfering in the internal matters of the member states. During the 12th and 13th SAARC summits, extreme emphasis was laid upon greater cooperation between the SAARC members to fight against terrorism.
Political Economy Of South Asia:
South Asia accounts for nearly 23% of the total world population. However, its share in the global GDP is less than 3%. The region is home to the world’s 400 million poor, which means nearly 30% of the region’s population lives below the poverty line.
All SAARC countries have a rather low raking on the Human Development Index (HDI), which according to the Human Development Report 20015-16 is: Sri lanka (73), the Maldives (104), India (130), Bhutan (132), Pakistan (147), Bangladesh (142), and Nepal (145). The HDI ranking is based on achievements in terms of life expectancy, education and real income. The low HDI ranking reflects poorly on these vital indicators in the region.
SAARC And ASEAN:
The poor trade performance of SAARC stands in marked contrast with that of the neighbouring regional alliance-Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The ASEAN countries accounts for merely 8.4% of the total world population. However, their share in total world trade is nearly 7%. ASEAN’s contribution to Asia’s total trade is 23 per cent. Intra-ASEAN trade accounts for nearly 30 per cent of the global trade of the 10-mmeber countries. ASEAN countries have remained embroiled (involved) in territorial disputes but that has not hampered their trade relations.
Pakistan and SAARC
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is an organization of South Asian nations, which was established on 8 December 1985.
The concept of SAARC was first motivated by President Zia-ur- Rahman of Bangladesh in 1980 to develop cooperation among the regional countries of South Asia. He perceived the regional cooperation in terms of a potential for peace keeping if it is executed in good faith by all the participants, which would not only offer economic progress but also reduce the political dividends.
Its seven founding members are Sri Lanka, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
Afghanistan due to its political influence on the region was also included as 8th member during 14th SAARC summit at India. Afghanistan joined the organization in 2007.
Meetings of heads of state are usually scheduled annually; meetings of foreign secretaries, twice annually.
It is headquartered in Kathmandu, Nepal.
The SAARC Secretariat was established in Kathmandu on 16 January 1987 and was inaugurated by Late King Birendra of Nepal.
SAARC has intentionally laid more stress on “core issues” rather than political issues like the Kashmir dispute and the Sri Lankan civil war.
The main purpose of SAARC is to promote cooperation and friendly relations among member states.
Reasons for Low Trade
The major reason for meager intra- SAARC trade is low volume of trade between Pakistan and India, the largest economies and trading nations in the region. Though formal Pak-India trade (the two countries have informal trade of more than $3 billion a year) has increased from $236 million in 2001-2002 to $1.95 billion in 2007-08, it still constitutes less than 1 per cent of the global trade of the two countries. Pakistan has not even granted MFN status, a basic requirement under the WTO, to India and continues to conduct its imports from India on the basis of a positive list. On its part, India maintains high tariffs and non-tariff barriers on products of export interest to Pakistan.
All South Asian states need to cooperate in all aspects because it is going to have a positive impact on this South Asian region which is full of natural resources. Member states should enhance trade within regional states. They should give priority to neighboring states. Climate is also major concern of states; it affects the whole region equally. Apart from that, we have issues of terrorism, poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, gender discrimination and many others. They can be solved through mutual will which they have shown during this summit.
While realizing the need of intra-regional trade, the SAARC countries decided to integrate the economic cooperation under the South Asian Preferential Trade Agreement (SAPTA). This agreement was signed in April 1993 at the Dhaka Summit and came into force in December 1995. SAPTA was the origin of economic cooperation in the region.
The major reason for meager intra- SAARC trade is low volume of trade between Pakistan and India, the largest economies and trading nations in the region.
In order to achieve the objectives of SAARC and increase regional integration, the member countries created South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) in 2004 at the twelfth SAARC summit. The agreement, which came into force on January 1, 2006, provides that members will reduce their tariffs to 0-5 per cent by December 31, 2015.
The success of SAFTA, however, largely depends on normalization of Pakistan-India relations. In case the relations between the two countries do not normalize, SAFTA’s fate will not be different from that of its predecessor, South Asian Preferential Trade Agreement (SAPTA).
At the 9th Summit, the heads of state/government recognized the importance of achieving a free trade area by the year 2001 and reiterated their desire for trade liberalization to fulfill the needs of smaller and the least developed countries and the benefits must acquire equality. South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) was introduced to this regional organization during the 12th Summit at Islamabad.
Observers: Australia, China, Europe Union, Iran, Japan, Mauritius, Myanmar (Burma), South Korea, United States.
As for SAARC, under suitable circumstances it can be a useful vehicle for promoting regional cooperation in such fields as environment, river water management, health, trade and the fight against drug trafficking. But it would be extremely unwise on our part to pursue such foolhardy schemes as the South Asian Economic and Monetary Union which would allow India to dictate our economic and monetary policies. The community of interests, a shared world view and the cultural affinities required for such a Union simply do not exist between Pakistan and India. This is in a marked contrast to the situation in EU whose members fulfill these essential conditions for an Economic and Monetary Union. India’s current campaign of fomenting terrorism in Pakistan further strengthens the argument to avoid such a Union with that country.
For complete Pakistan Affairs notes click here.