South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)
was set up in 1985. Since then, productive meetings were held to develop
ideas for forging ahead. This unique forum has been struggling to bring
home several messages of goodwill, peace and tranquillity in the region.
On several occasions, heads of states of all SAARC countries met and
agreed on several issues of mutual interest. This platform has enabled
sharing of thoughts, exchange of ideas and creation of awareness
regarding innovative initiatives to be taken for achieving the
objectives of SAARC in the light of founding principles laid down for
SAARC. Hopefully these initiatives will continue in future so that
efforts are solidly undertaken for alleviating poverty, accelerating
socioe-conomic and scientific progress in SAARC region to pave the way
for ushering in an era of prosperity on wider dimensions. The sincerity
and commitment by the Governments and the people of SAARC region are the
crying need of today. This piece presents some thoughts on the theme of
a dream about SAARC Economic Union by 2010.
SAARC VISION 2010
Status quo is never a permanent feature. Change is an
on-going process. South Asian Economic Union by year 2010 can be the
result of a positive thinking approach. An excellent debate has been
initiated in this respect. It is hoped that this subject of vital
importance will be discussed and debated at various levels namely
Government, Private, Public, NGOs institutional and even individual
levels. Ideas need to be pooled. Experiences need to be shared.
Dimensions of cooperation need to be identified and a framework needs to
be evolved to serve as a basis for the proposed South Asian Economic
Union by 2010.
Clear cut principles for SAARC were spelled out at
the time of its establishment and these require firm commitment by all
the SAARC countries. The cooperation among SAARC countries cannot be a
substitute for bilateral and multi-lateral cooperation but shall
complement them. Further, such cooperation shall not be inconsistent
with bilateral and multi-lateral obligation.
Principles on which cooperation shall be based
include respect to the following:
Non-interference in internal affairs of other states and mutual benefit.
The foregoing principles represent strong conceptual
logistics on the basis of which South Asian Economic Union can be
strongly visualized by 2010. All the SAARC Countries must strictly
adhere to the above principles as a mark of respect to each other and
help realize the goals for which SAARC has been established.
Objectives of SAARC include promotion of socio-economic developments
within SAARC countries and also develop a productive relationship with
regional and international organizations. Based on this, objectives can
be categorized as under:
a) To promote
the welfare of the people of South-Asia and to improve their quality of
To accelerate economic growth.
To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic,
social, cultural, technical and scientific fields.
promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of
To contribute to mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one
strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums and with
other developing countries.
To strengthen cooperation with other developing countries.
To cooperate with international and regional organizations.
SAARC WORK PACKAGES:
Ten areas of work within SAARC region were identified and assignment
were given to various SAARC countries. Topics were allocated together
with the countries responsible for the same. India was given four
assignments namely, Business Information & Data Networking, Human
Resource Development, Science & Technology and Social Dimension of
Business Development. Pakistan had two topics i.e., Trade and
Investment. Sri Lanka was given an interesting topic namely, women
entrepreneurs. Bangladesh was expected to handle telecommunication.
Travel and Tourism were to be handled by Nepal. Bhutan and Nepal had
joint responsibility for energy. There is a need for an accelerated
effort to push ahead in respect of above assignments.
SAARC BACKGROUND FOR SOUTH ASIAN ECONOMIC UNION BY
Cooperation has been a subject of great interest in several parts of the
world. However, the idea of regional cooperation in South Asia was first
evolved during 1977-80 and Bangladesh took the initiative to bring up
the idea of setting up SAARC. In August 1983, Foreign Ministers met in
New Delhi and Declaration on South Asian Regional Cooperation (SAARC)
was made and formally Integrated Programme of Action (IPA) was launched.
In 1985, Charter of SAARC was adopted in Dhaka. IPA,
consisting of eleven areas of cooperation, is the key component of the
SAARC's functions. These include agriculture, communications, education,
culture and sports, environment and meteorology, health and population
activities, prevention of drug trafficking & drug abuse, rural
development, science & technology, tourism, transport and women in
Initial steps taken for a long-term objectives of
South Asian Economic Union by 2010 so far have included the following:
on SAPTA (South Asian Preferential Trading Arrangement) was signed
during the Seventh SAARC Summit in Dhaka. This entered into force on
December 07, 1995. This had the following two forward linkages:
reduction and eventual elimination of tariffs within SAARC.
step on the road to creating a SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Area).
Accelerated efforts are needed to implement bilateral and multi-lateral
initiatives to promote economic cooperation.
initiatives have also been taken in respect of developing institutional
framework. These institutions need to be strengthened for their vibrant
functions so that positive steps are taken to crystallize the dream of
South Asian Economic Union by 2010.
Some of the pertinent institutions include:
Agricultural Information Centre (SIAC), Dhaka, Bangladesh.
SAARC Documentation Centre (SDC), New Delhi, India.
Following SAARC Funds have been established so far:
i) SAARC Fund
for Regional Projects (SFRP) (1991).
SAARC — Japan Special Fund (Sept. 27, 1993), Kathmandu, Nepal.
South Asian Development Fund (SADF) — (1995) New Delhi, India.
There is a need to consolidate gains from the above
institutional framework and carry forward the same towards achieving the
goal of South Asian Economic Union by 2010.
SAARC LOGISTICS FOR VISION 2010: SAARC
is the largest geo-economic bloc of the world with 1.2 billion people.
Its GDP, based on purchasing power parity is $ 3.57 trillion. Its
combined average growth is over 7%. Its plan includes a common market
i.e. SAPTA. This represents a hope for the largest pool of poor people
of the world, with a consumer base of over 425 million people in the
middle class bracket. It is larger than any economic block of the world.
It has the potential of contributing a great deal to the ever evolving
SAARC region has the following unique features of the
1. It has one
of the most ancient living civilizations in the world.
It is a sleeping giant and has started to move its arms.
All religions, faiths, and ideologies of the world live together.
It is maturing and is poised to become an important economic force
forming a common market called SAPTA and later SAFTA. This is expected
to usher in a new era which will change all traditionally known economic
It has the largest irrigated land areas in the world with over 67
It has the second largest railway network of the world after the US.
It offers one of the largest English speaking area.
It has labor force of 423 million people. This is the largest of any
other economic bloc in the world.
It also is home to some of the poorest living people on the earth but
has increased job opportunities and self-employment schemes in all SAARC
10. Having a combined average growth
rate of more than 7% by year 2000, SAARC will have a combined population
of 1.3 billion people and the total consumer base will surpass 750
million. This will be the largest number of consumers in a single
economic bloc in the world.
SCCI: A STRONG LOGISTIC FOR SOUTH ASIAN ECONOMIC
UNION BY 2010: SAARC Chamber of
Commerce and Industry (SCCI) was set up in 1992 as the official
recognition by all the regional governments and as the apex body of all
the national federations of chambers of commerce and industry with its
headquarters in Pakistani. It consists of seven component members
representing each country. Its mission is to enhance economic
cooperation with a view to improving SAARC's position in the world trade
as well as within SAARC itself.
SCCI's philosophy is as under:
It will gradually endeavor to achieve SAARC Economic
Bring about harmonious and healthy economic relations among the business
communities of the region.
The general belief is that the above Union will serve
as a step forward to globalization and will help to overcome the
socio-political differences within the region.
SCCI's contributions towards establishment of South
Asian Economic Union by 2010 are suggested to be in the following
1) Serve as
voice of business community of the region at national, regional and
Endeavor to bring about necessary economic cooperation in all spheres of
the SAARC region.
Encourage investments and joint ventures within and outside the region
to ensure that the benefits of economic cooperation are realized for the
Encourage private sector in the process of industrialization and also to
act as the change agent while allowing the governments to develop the
infrastructure jointly with them and setting in place policies which can
minimize dislocations to economic growth and social development.
The-business community of SAARC need
to be encouraged to come forward with intra-regional investment
proposals covering the following areas:
Repatriation of profits
Avoidance of double taxation
for settlement of trade disputes among SAARC member states.
Strategy needs to be developed to evolve common
agreements for the region as a whole or sub-region on bilateral basis
for the above aspects. The share of SAARC in World Trade, based on the
World Development Report 2002, is 1.03%. This shows that the scope of
intra regional trade is very big.
AGENDA FOR SOUTH ASIAN ECONOMIC UNION BY 2010:
Year 2001 was set as target date to
achieve SAFTA. This was expected to set pace of development in core
trade and economic cooperation in the member countries. However, the
dream has not yet been mate realized.
The Ninth SAARC Summit was held in Male, Maldives
during May 12-14, 1997 and directed the establishment of Group of
Eminent Persons (GEP). This group was asked to undertake the following
1. Develop a
long range vision.
Formulate a perspective plan of action including a SAARC agenda for 2000
Spell out the targets that can and must be achieved by the year 2020.
The recommendations were presented in the two-days
SAARC Summit held in January 5-6, 2002 in Kathmandu, Nepal. South Asian
Economic Union by 2010 is expected to result as under:
1. With new
enthusiasm in the markets and shifting economies on combined scale,
dependence of their GNP will reduce in coming years.
An increased collaboration and harmonious relationship could help reduce
the defense budgets to much lower points. On the assumption that these
funds are allocated for developmental programs, the growth indicators
will sharply move forward.
Marketing plans for these countries can be more or less unique and
specially for consumer products and services like entertainment.
SAARC SUMMIT JANUARY 2002:
Two days SAARC Summit was held in Kathmandu, Nepal during January 05-06,
2002. It visualized the establishment of South Asian Economic Union.
Pre-requisites to this dream were identified as under:
mutual trust and understanding, peace, stability and amity and
accelerated socio-economic cooperation.
Foster good neighbourly relations, relieving tensions and building
Finalize a regionally agreed investment framework to meet investment
needs of the member states.
Promote South Asia has a common tourist destination by upgrading
infrastructure, air linkages, simplification and harmonization of
administrative procedures and joint marketing.
Combat the problem of poverty with a new sense of urgency.
Focus on rural micro-credit programs for women and disadvantaged, widen
opportunities for gainful employment and reconstitute the independent
South Asian Commission on poverty alleviation.
Finalize the SAARC Social Charter including:
Empowerment of women.
Human resource development
Promotion of health and nutrition and projection of children.
It is high time that all the SAARC Countries must
respect each other and strive for developing peace and tranquillity in
the region and give genuine tribute to the principles of SAARC and
implement a plan paving the way for institutionalizing South Asian
Economic Union by 2010. This is needed to usher in an new era of
prosperity for the teeming million of the above region.