The Prime Minister of India’s decision to convene a video conference of leaders of the eight-member SAARC recently represents a much-needed out-of-the-box thinking as the world faces the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

  • The signing of the SAARC Charter in Dhaka established the SAARC in 1985. 
  • Its secretariat is in Kathmandu, Nepal. 
  • Eight states―Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka
  • Six observers—China, Japan, European Union, Republic of Korea, United States, Iran

Objectives of SAARC

  • SAARC intends to promote regional and economic integration, social progress and cultural development which will help in accelerating economic growth in the region.
  • To  improve the quality of life and promote the welfare of the people of South Asia by providing all individuals the opportunity to live in dignity and to realize their full potential.
  • To strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia.
  • To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in different fields. For example, cooperation during outbreak of a disease in the region.
  • To strengthen cooperation with 
    • other developing countries.
    • among themselves in international forums on matters of common interests; and
    • international and regional organizations with similar aims and purposes.

Relevance of SAARC 

SAARC comprises 3.8% (US$2.9 trillion) of the world’s economy, 3% of the world's area and 21% of the world's population.

  • Common solutions to common problems
    • All the SAARC countries have common problems and issues like poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition, natural disasters, internal conflicts, industrial and technological backwardness, low GDP and poor socio-economic condition and uplift their living standards.
    • So it helps in creating common areas of development and progress having common solutions.
  • Common culture: As SAARC countries have common tradition, dress, food and culture and political aspects thereby synergizing their actions.

From Perspective of India

  • Neighborhood first: By giving primacy to the country's immediate neighbour that will lead to mutual benefits.
  • Regional stability: By creating mutual trust and peace within the region.
  • Application of soft power: It offers India a platform to showcase its leadership in the region.
  • Act East: By linking South Asian economies with South East asian will bring further economic integration and prosperity to India.
  • Counter to initiatives such as OBOR: Through engaging Nepal, Bhutan, the Maldives and Sri Lanka in the development process and economic cooperation.