Asian Association for Regional Cooperation)
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. Afghanistan became its eighth member
at the Association's 14th summit in April 2007.
In terms of population (of 1.3 billion), SAARC's sphere
of influence is the largest of any regional organization.
Providing a platform for the peoples of South Asia
to work together in a spirit of friendship, trust
and understanding, its aim is to accelerate the process
of economic and social development in Member States.
Connectivity was the overarching theme of the 14th
SAARC Summit with emphasis on physical connectivity,
economic connectivity and people to people connectivity.
A diverse range of challenges were identified, dealing
with poverty and malnutrition, education, food, health,
connectivity, environment conservation, as well as
the need for combating terrorism, narcotics and psychotropic
substances, trafficking in women and children and
other trans-national crimes. The Leaders have acknowledged
that the direct involvement of people in the decision
making process has helped SAARC
to identify connectivity projects in the fields of
education, health and infrastructure
As the current Chair of SAARC, India is committed
to improve people to people connectivity within the
region. As directed by the 14th SAARC Summit, the
SAARC Cultural Festival is being institutionalized
with the first being organized by India. Deliberation
on the cultural and social ties among the SAARC countries,
based on common history and geography, took place
where the futures of peoples of South Asia were seen
as interlinked. The importance of people-to-people
contact was stressed as a key constituent in regional
connectivity with the increased intra-regional tourism
and increased exchanges, particularly among the youth,
civil society, and parliamentarians.