SAARC or “South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation” was formed in December, 1985 at Dhaka. India, Pakistan Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives are its founding members. Afghanistan became its 8th member in 2007.
SAARC is the first systematic organizational output of efforts at regional level among member states of South Asia. The original idea was put forth by President Zia-ur-Rahman of Bangladesh.
Objectives of SAARC:
The objectives of the ASSOCIATION shall be:
a) to promote the welfare of the peoples of SOUTH ASIA and to improve their quality of life.
b) 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.
c) to promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of SOUTH ASIA.
d) to contribute to mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another’s problems.
e) to promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields.
f) to strengthen cooperation with other developing countries.
g) to strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums on matters of common interests, and
h) to cooperate with international and regional organisations with similar aims and purposes.
PRINCIPLES Of SAARC
1.Cooperation within the framework of the ASSOCIATION 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.
2. Such cooperation shall not be a substitute for bilateral and multilateral cooperation but shall complement them.
3. Such cooperation shall not be inconsistent with bilateral and multilateral obligations.
Constraining Factors /Hurdles in the Development of SAARC
There are some serious constraints which are, no doubt, not allowing South Asian cooperation to develop. Some of these hurdles can be described as:
1. Inter-state Disputes in South Asia
One of the major hurdles in the way of cooperation among the SAARC members is the mistrust, mutual security perceptions and hostility. All the members of this organization feel in one way or another threat to their political, economic and territorial stability from the neighboring countries.They are still entrapped in the historical conflicts of colonial rule and the disputed environment after the departure of Colonial Masters i.e loss of property, lives, identities and communal violence.There are always high risks that any time the efforts for cooperation can suffer due to communal and terrorist threats.
2. Fear of Indian Domination
Another most important cause of SAARC failure is that there is a fear of India‟s hegemonic role in the region. Indian desire to participate in the decision making process of the region as a leader has caused concerns among the neighboring countries particularly Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.v The political, diplomatic and security concerns felt by the member countries of SAARC in South Asia has obstructed any positive development among the member countries.
3. Civilizations Clash
Professor Samuel Huntington has mentioned in his book “The Clash of Civilizations” that SAARC has been a failure because according to him the countries belonging to organizations like EU etc they belong to same culture but SAARC countries are those whose cultures are different. India and Pakistan are enemies of each other, they fight on minor things, and then how can these two countries support each other in one organization. No country in the region is having any feeling of belongingness with the other state.
4. Unstable Financial Positions
The weak financial position of the member countries has also created an uncertain future for this organization. This weak financial position is reflected in the trade imbalances among the member countries. The SAARC members are financially and economically not very much developed. This thing is not conducive for the economic integration of South Asia. Most of the member countries export similar products and in that too, India plays a major role. This situation encourages the least developed countries to go for aid demands/arrangements and extra-regional trade which is not favorable for the regional economic interaction. The member countries of SAARC are not complementing each other but they are competing in fact. Mutual trade is very low. The lower level of intra-region trade in South Asia has made the objective of this organization a failure.
5. Asymmetry between India and Member Countries
There is economic, technological and demographic imbalance between India and other member countries of SAARC. India being larger in size, economy and possessing high technological infrastructure dominates other members. India accounts for more than three quarters of the regional GDP and technological infrastructure and two third of the global exports of the region. The smaller countries in South Asia feel uncomfortable about their trade relations with India because under the current tariff structure, India runs a large trade surplus with her neighbors. Also, India‟s volume of informal trade with most of its neighbours is quite enormous. All south Asian countries look up to India to share its huge markets due to its size and location, where 80% of the intra-regional trade in south Asia is to or from India.