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
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.