Prelims level : International Institutions – Summits, Working, Organisations Mains level : GS-II Important International Institutions, Agencies and fora- their Structure, Mandate
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  • Recently our Honorable Defense Minister has mentioned, India is playing a lead role in connectivity in the South Asian region, but the full potential of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is not utilised because of the behavior of a Single Country.

About SAARC:

  • The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was established with the signing of the SAARC Charter in Dhaka on 8 December 1985.
  • It is the economic and geopolitical unit presently consist of eight member countries: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Afghanistan.
  • The Secretariat of the Association was set up in Kathmandu on 17 January 1987.
  • Decisions at all levels are to be taken on the basis of unanimity; and bilateral and contentious issues are excluded from the deliberations of the Association.

SAARC Lost its Utility:

  • India has maintained that it is difficult to proceed with the SAARC initiative because of continuing support to cross-border terrorism from Pakistan,
  • The last SAARC Summit was in 2014, held in Kathmandu. In the past few years, India has been pushing for regional cooperation under the BIMSTEC umbrella.
  • It faced another setback after the 19th summit scheduled to be held in Pakistan in 2016 was suspended for an indefinite period, as member countries declined to participate, pointing to what they said was the absence of a Conducive Regional Environment.

Way Ahead for India:

Economic development

  • SAARC preferential trade agreement (SAPTA) needs to be revived to bring the economic prosperity in this Region.
  • India needs to give the trade concessions to member countries to make the SAPTA achieve its potential.
  • This will reduce the incidence the poverty in the region and will have the cascading effect on the other aspect of the development.


  • It is a big threat to the security of the SAARC countries.
  • It diverts the resources which otherwise could have been used for other development activity.
  • Joint cooperation among these countries is required to fight against terror outfits.
  • Each country needs to ensure that they will not allow their soil to become the breeding ground for terrorism.


  • Energy is like a blood for the development of the economy. The region has great potential to develop the renewable energy like solar, wind, tidal etc.
  • In addition to this hydro power potential is enormous in the Himalayan belt Rivers, which can be harnessed with the joint cooperation of these Countries.
  • SAARC forum can be used to resolve the water related issues among the member countries .This will contribute to the overall development of the region as water resources are critical to the development.
  • Disaster management is another area where SAARC nation can cooperate and develop a specific fund to strengthen the disaster management system.


  • India needs to accept the reality that it has a troubled relation with Pakistan but it has to be open to them once they are willing to cooperate because India has investments in Afghanistan & Pakistan is a key player there.
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