What is SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation)

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), founded in Dhaka on 8 December 1985, is a south asian geopolitical and intergovernmental organisation consisting of 8 nations named Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

As of 2015, SAARC member countries covers 3 per cent of world's area, 21 per cent of the world's population and 3.8 per cent of the global economy.

SAARS's headquarter is located in Kathmandu(Nepal), in order to promote economic and regional integration, South Asian Free Trade Area was launched by the organisation in 2006.

SAARC has maintained relations with multilateral entities like European Union and have permanent diplomatic relations with United Nations as an observer.

SAARC also consists of several states as observers including Australia, China, the European Union, Iran, Japan, Mauritius, Myanmar, South Korea and the United States.

Russia and Turkey has already applied for the observer state of the organisation while Myanmar has expressed interest in upgrading its status from an observer to a full member.

Major Initiatives by SAARC

In order to maintain peace and prosperity in the region SAARC has provided a common platform for political dialogue between member countries.

Counter terrorism is one of the key area of concentration for SAARC member countries, extreme emphasis is laid upon greater cooperation to start a collective fight against it.

South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) was launched by SAARC in 2006 as a first step in integrating south Asia as a common market and the Economic Union. Under the agreement SAARC members were to bring their duties down to 20 percent by 2009. A Ministerial Council (SMC) is also created under SAFTA consists of Commerce Ministers of the Member States.

Way Ahead More is needed to be done in the area of trade collaboration as ASEAN has shown more attractive results in terms of intra members trade despite being a much smaller organisation than SAARC.

One of the major aim of the SAARC was to move towards a South Asian Economic Union but current situations are not encouraging and it may be difficult to achieve this target. Both foreign direct investment and intra-regional trade needs to be increased to captured the full potential of the organisation.

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