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South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is an organisation of South Asian nations, founded in December 1985 and dedicated to economic, technological, social, and cultural development emphasising collective self-reliance.

It is headquartered in Kathmandu, Nepal.

It has 8 member countries. Its seven founding members are Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Afghanistan joined the organization in 2005.

Meetings of heads of state are usually scheduled annually; meetings of foreign secretaries, twice annually.

The 11 stated areas of cooperation are agriculture; education, culture, and sports; health, population, and child welfare; the environment and meteorology; rural development (including the SAARC Youth Volunteers Program); tourism; transport; science and technology; communications.

SAARC was founded in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 8 December 1998. Its secretariat is based in Kathmandu, Nepal. The organization promotes development of economic and regional integration. It launched the South Asian Free Trade Area in 2006. SAARC maintains permanent diplomatic relations at the United Nations as an observer and has developed links with multilateral entities, including the European Union.


The concept of SAARC was first adopted by Bangladesh during 1977, under the administration of President Ziaur Rahman. 

In the late 1970s, SAARC nations agreed upon the creation of a trade bloc consisting of South Asian countries. The idea of regional cooperation in South Asia was again mooted in May 1980. 

The foreign secretaries of the seven countries met for the first time in Colombo in April 1981. 

The Committee of the Whole, which met in Colombo in August 1985, identified five broad areas for regional cooperation. New areas of cooperation were added in the following years.


The objectives of the Association as defined in the Charter are:
  • to promote the welfare of the people 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 realize their full potential;
  • 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 interest; and
  • to cooperate with international and regional organisations with similar aims and purposes.


The SAARC Secretariat was established in Kathmandu on 16 January 1987 and was inaugurated by Late King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah of Nepal.

It is headed by a Secretary General appointed by the Council of Ministers from Member Countries in alphabetical order for a three-year term. He is assisted by the Professional and the General Services Staff, and also an appropriate number of functional units called Divisions assigned to Directors on deputation from Member States.

SAARC Youth Award

The SAARC Youth Award is awarded to outstanding individuals from the SAARC region. The award is notable due to the recognition it gives to the Award winner in the SAARC region. The award is based on specific themes which apply to each year. 

1997: Outstanding Social Service in Community Welfare - Mr. Md. Sukur Salek (Bangladesh)

1998: New Inventions and Discoveries - Dr. Najmul Hasnain Shah (Pakistan)

2001: Creative Photography: South Asian Diversity - Mr. Mushfiqul Alam (Bangladesh)

2002: Outstanding contribution to protect the Environment - Dr. Masil Khan (Pakistan)

2003: Invention in the Field of Traditional Medicine - Mr. Hassan Sher (Pakistan)

2004: Outstanding contribution to raising awareness for TB and/or HIV/AIDS - Mr. Ajij Prasad Poudyal (Nepal)

2006: Promotion of Tourism in South Asia - Mr. Syed Zafar Abbas Naqvi (Pakistan)

2008: From Himalayan glaciers to verdant plains to coral reefs – protecting the Environment in South Asia - Ms. Uswatta Liyanage Deepani Jayantha (Sri Lanka)

2009: Outstanding contribution to humanitarian works in the aftermath of Natural Disasters - Dr. Ravikant Singh (India)

2010: Outstanding contribution for the Protection of Environment and mitigation of Climate Change - Ms. Anoka Primrose Abeyrathne (Sri Lanka)

2011: Youth leadership in the fight against social ills - Mr. Mohamed Faseen Rafiu from the Maldives

SAARC summits :

No. Date Country Host city Host leader
1st 7–8 Dec 1985 Bangladesh Dhaka Ataur Rahman Khan
2nd 16–17 Nov 1986 India Bangalore Rajiv Gandhi
3rd 2–4 Nov 1987 Nepal Kathmandu Marich Man Singh Shrestha
4th 29–31 Dec 1988 Pakistan Islamabad Benazir Bhutto
5th 21–23 Nov 1990 Maldives Malé Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
6th 21 Dec 1991 Sri Lanka Colombo Dingiri Banda Wijetunge
7th 10-11 April 1993 Bangladesh Dhaka Khaleda Zia
8th 2–4 May 1995 India New Delhi P. V. Narasimha Rao
9th 12–14 May 1997 Maldives Malé Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
10th 29–31 July 1998 Sri Lanka Colombo Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike
11th 4–6 Jan 2002 Nepal Kathmandu Sher Bahadur Deuba
12th 2–6 Jan 2004 Pakistan Islamabad Zafarullah Khan Jamali
13th 12–13 Nov 2005 Bangladesh Dhaka Khaleda Zia
14th 3–4 April 2007 India New Delhi Manmohan Singh
15th 1–3 Aug 2008 Sri Lanka Colombo Ratnasiri Wickremanayake
16th 28–29 April 2010 Bhutan Thimphu Jigme Thinley
17th 10 - 11 Nov 2011 Maldives Addu Mohamed Nasheed
18th 26 - 27 Nov 2014 Nepal Kathmandu Sushil Koirala
19th 9 – 10 Nov 2016 Pakistan Islamabad Cancelled

Secretaries-General of SAARC :

Secretary GeneralPeriod
Abul Hasan16 Jan 1985 to 15 Oct 1989
Kant Kishore Bhargava17 Oct 1989 to 31 Dec 1991
Ibrahim Hussein Zaki1 Jan 1992 to 31 Dec 1993
Yadav Kant Silwal1 Jan 1994 to 31 Dec 1995
Naeem U. Hasan1 Jan 1996 to 31 Dec 1998
Nihal Rodrigo1 Jan 1999 to 10 Jan 2002
Q. A. M. A. Rahim11 Jan 2002 to 28 Feb 2005
Chenkyab Dorji1 March 2005 to 29 Feb 2008
Sheel Kant Sharma1 March 2008 to 28 Feb 2011
Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed1 March 2011 to 11 March 2012
Ahmed Saleem12 March 2012 to 28 Feb 2014
Arjun Bahadur Thapa1 March 2014 to 28 Feb 2017
Amjad Hussain B. Sial 1 March 2017 to present

Last updated on: 21/10/2019


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