Context: India and Pakistan engaged in a war of words at the Foreign Minister’s meetings of the 8-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the 27-nation Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA). 

19th SAARC Summit deferred

  • Most countries agreed it is not the “opportune time” to convene the summit as proposed by Pakistan, given the COVID-19 situation. 
  • Relevance of SAARC: 
    • However Nepal said that the delay in convening the 19th SAARC Summit and the absence of formal meetings of the SAARC Charter bodies since 2016, has greatly impacted the functioning of SAARC.
    • Recently, India had also refused to attend the 19th edition of the SAARC summit, due to be held in Islamabad in 2016, over the issue of Pakistan’s continued support to terror groups.
  • All SAARC nations including India and Pakistan, however, built a common stand on the need to cooperate in battling the coronavirus pandemic. 

India’s recent initiatives at SAARC

  • The SAARC Leaders video-conference convened by Indian PM
  • A ‘COVID-19 Information Exchange Platform (COINEX)
  • A SAARC Food Bank mechanism, 
  • The SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund, to which India has contributed $10 million, making essential drugs, 
  • COVID protection and testing kits, amounting to $ 2.3 million available to countries in the SAARC region.

South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC)

  • SAARC has eight member countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
  • The first SAARC meeting took place in Dhaka in 1985, and there have been 18 summits till date. 


  • SAARC is aimed at promoting the welfare of the people; accelerating economic growth, social progress and culture development; and strengthening collective self-reliance. 
  • The organization also seeks to contribute to mutual trust and understanding among the member countries. 

Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) 

  • It is a forum aimed at enhancing cooperation through elaborating multilateral approaches towards promoting peace, security and stability in Asia. 
  • CICA was established at the initiative  of  President  Nursultan  Nazarbayev  of  Kazakhstan  outlined  at  the  47th UNGA  in 1992. 
  • It  currently  has  24  members,  namely  Afghanistan,  Azerbaijan, Bahrain,  Cambodia,  China,  Egypt,  India,  Iran,  Iraq,  Israel,  Jordan,  Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,  Mongolia,  Pakistan,  Palestine,  Republic  of  Korea,  Russia,  Tajikistan, Thailand,  Turkey,  United  Arab  Emirates,  Uzbekistan,  Vietnam.  
  • India  has  been  a member right since CICA's inception. 
  • Nine countries (Bangladesh, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia,  Philippines,  Qatar,  Sri  Lanka,  Ukraine  and  USA)  and  three  international organizations  (the  United  Nations,  the  OSCE  and  the  League  of  Arab  States)  are Observers.
  • The CICA Catalogue of CBMs adopted in 2004 identified five basic dimensions for the implementation of CBMs viz. economic, environmental, human, fight against new  challenges  and  threats,  and  military-political.
  • It’s Secretariat is situated at Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.

Image source: Economic Times