The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was established when its Charter was formally adopted on December 8, 1985 by the Heads of State or Government of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka at the First Summit meeting in Dhaka.
Afghanistan was admitted as the eighth Member of the SAARC during the Fourteenth Summit held in New Delhi on 3-4 April 2007. China, Japan, USA.
The SAARC Charter has 10 Articles which deal with the Objectives, Principles, Organization, Meetings, Secretariat and Financial Arrangements of the SAARC.
The objectives of the SAARC are
- To promote the welfare of the peoples of SOUTH ASIA and to improve their quality of life.
- 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 realise their full potentials.
- To promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of SOUTH ASIA.
- To contribute to mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another's problems.
- To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields.
- To strengthen cooperation with other developing countries.
- To strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums on matters of common interests.
- To cooperate with international and regional organisations with similar aims and purposes.
The SAARC is governed by the following three general principles
- Cooperation within the framework of the SAARC shall be based on respect for the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, political independence, non-interference in the internal affairs of other States and mutual benefit.
- Such cooperation shall not be a substitute for bilateral and multilateral cooperation but shall complement them.
- Such cooperation shall not be inconsistent with bilateral and multilateral obligations.
The apex forum of the SAARC is the Summit Meeting of the Heads of State or Government which takes place once a year or more often as and when considered necessary by the Member States. A Council of Ministers consisting of the Foreign Ministers of the Member States meets twice a year, while a Standing Committee of the Foreign Secretaries meets as often as deemed necessary. Technical Committees of representatives of Member States on specific subjects are responsible for the implementation, coordination and monitoring of the programmes in their respective areas of cooperation.
SAARC Secretariat located at Kathmandu provides support to the SAARC in carrying out its day to day activities.