South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation


Kathmandu, Nepal



December 8, 1985

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (also: South Asian Economic Community ) or short (SAARC. Engl of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) was founded on December 8, 1985 in Dhaka ( Bangladesh) and has its registered office in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu. Founding members are India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Maldives. In April 2007, Afghanistan joined at the summit in New Delhi in the organization. China, Japan, the European Union, South Korea, the U.S. and Iran have observer status.

Your goal is cooperation in economic and technical issues, in particular coordination in the areas of customs and cross-border trade. There are cooperation programs for agriculture and environmental protection. Political problems remain mostly excluded due to the Kashmir dispute. The core of the economic cooperation is the South Asian Preferential Trading Arrangement (South Asian Preferential Trade Arrangement; SAPTA ). The aim of this agreement is the regional trade liberalization through the reduction of trade barriers and increased cooperation. So far, the trade between SAARC countries was only 4 per cent of its total foreign trade. The long term goal is the creation of a South Asian Free Trade Area ( South Asian Free Trade Area, SAFTA ), which will then comprise 1.6 billion consumers and about one- fifth of the world population. With the SAARC regional organization, which was characterized by asymmetry and heterogeneity arose. Three out of four residents of the Member States live in India, India also comprises 72 percent of the total area of South Asia and its share in the gross national product of the region is more than 75 percent.

Member States

  • Members
  • Observer


  • Bangladesh Bangladesh (1985 )
  • Bhutan Bhutan ( 1985)
  • India India (1985 )
  • Maldives Maldives ( 1985)
  • Nepal Nepal ( 1985)
  • Pakistan Pakistan ( 1985)
  • Sri Lanka Sri Lanka ( 1985)
  • Afghanistan Afghanistan ( 2007)


  • Australia Australia
  • People's Republic of China People's Republic of China ( 2005)
  • Japan Japan (2005)
  • European Union European Union (2006 )
  • Mauritius Mauritius
  • Myanmar Myanmar
  • Flag of South Korea South Korea (2006)
  • United States United States (2006)
  • Iran Iran ( 2007)

Prospective members

  • China People's Republic of China has bekundigt its interest in full membership. While Pakistan and Bangladesh support this request, however, India is very negative and not even Bhutan has diplomatic relations with China. On the 14th Summit in Dhaka in 2005, India voted at least to receive China together with Japan as an observer. At the following meeting in New Delhi received China's application for full membership support from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.
  • Myanmar Myanmar also has an interest in full membership, but this is currently rejected by India.
  • Iran Iran borders two member countries of SAARC and has traditionally been very strong cultural, economic and political relations with Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. On 22 February 2005, the Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said that his country is interested in membership. Due to the Iranian nuclear program membership seems for the time being, but rather unlikely. On 3 March 2007, Iran applied for membership as an observer, which was approved at the Summit of SAARC on April 3, 2007 in New Delhi.
  • Russia Russia expressed a desire to join the SAARC as an observer. India supports this desire.