SAARC was set up in 1985 and today it has 8 members: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Srilanka.
Afghanistan joined SAARC only in 2007.
SAARC member nations cooperate on a range of issues from agriculture, economy, poverty alleviation, S&T and culture to encourage people to people contact.
It is being said that SAARC has become a merely a symbolic regional forum with little prospect of strengthening regional cooperation. It is also true that even after 30 years of its establishment, South Asia remains one of the worst economically integrated regions of the world.
When compared to other regional groupings it seems that SAARC has been underperforming.
The whole idea of SAARC is to establish a regional market.
One of the main objectives of the SAARC was to accelerate regional economic cooperation and to that end SAFTA was signed in 2004.
India needs to play a pivotal role since SAARC is India centric.
Trade alone would not suffice for economic cooperation. There are also issues related to exchange of technology, social issues, transportation and many more.
In some areas Bangladesh has sidelined India.
Sub regional cooperation within SAARC would take out national prejudices and improve the relations.
Domestic problems of SAARC members have tended to shape the attitude to regional cooperation.
It is also being said that the PAK has been the biggest impediment in the progress of SAARC.
Trade and investment go hand in hand.
SAARC can also be used to deal with security issues.
SAARC declaration on terrorism has completely become infructuous. It requires the member countries to pass enabling laws. But the countries are delaying it.
SAARC has made two significant contributions:
- This is the only forum in south Asia where all the leaders come together every year.
- SAARC official process has sensitized a large number of non-official processes.
The entire SAARC process has to be put in a project mode. And the SAARC process must be made multifarious.