The term SAARC stands for “ The South Asian Association for Regional Co-orporation”. At the 13th Saarc summit meeting held on 12th -13th November 2005, Saarc membership was expanded due to the participation of Afghanistan. The purpose of making Saarc was to bring together the South Asian nations as a common platform for regional co-orporation. All the decisions within Saarc are base on unanimity.
The president of Bangladesh Zia-ur-Rehman put maximum effort on the establishment of Saarc because he believed that the nation of South Asia had common values that were rooted in their social, cultural and historical traditions. In 1997 to 1980, he visited Nepal, Pakistan, India and Sirlanka, And during his visits, he discussed the possibility of creating a regional framework in South Asia. He sent letters to the government of Nepal, Bhutan , India, The Maldives, Pakistan and Sirlanka and the result was that all the state members met all the first Saarc summit meeting held at Dhaka in December 1985 and adopted the charter. The main objectives of Saarc’s include the promotion of economic growth, social progress, cultural development and to improve the life of the people of South Asia. During the first summit meeting, a suggestion was given by Pakistan that the related activities of Saarc women’s participation should also be increased. The suggestion was liked and approved by the other members, they accepted that the progress and achievements are directly or indirectly are connected with women, as society is dependent on the women participation and stability.
The presence of India with the dominant posture is a big hurdle that make Saarc an effective forum. India’s big size,massive population and vast military has created imbalance in the region and this physical imbalance is responsible of suspicion and mistrust. Now after India, Pakistan is the largest state region interms of both area and population. Like other members of Saarc , Pakistan has also feared Indian hegemony, but besides its strong influence over the neighbouring countries Pakistan, always tried to facilitate The Maldives, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Srilanka to stabilize and strengthen its good relations with them.
There were many factors which insisted Pakistan to participate in Pakistan, At the regional level , the political, historical and strategic relationships of Pakistan have strongly affected its attitude towards Saarc. Then the wars between Pakistan and India further showed Pakistan insecurity and the superiority in nuclear forces also added a new dimension. And last but not the least, the Kashmir dispute also pushed and enforced Pakistan to show its contributions and abilities in Saarc activites. Nevertheless there were other two main reasons which enforced Pakistan to take part in Saarc activities. First Saarc’s structures are intergovernmental, which inspired Pakistan’s national interests and there was no involvement of any political or security activities that might adversely affect Pakistan’s national security concerns. Moreover Saarc countries agreed to co-operate in fighting against terrorism and enhance intra-saarc trade and both these things strengthened the organisation and Pakistan’s commitment towards it. In the wake of the soviet intervention in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s security relationship with the United States of America was a strong influence on its decision to join Saarc.
One of the major contributions of Saarc is that it brings India and Pakistan closer to negotiate over the Kashmir issue. So for the very first time in history, the two countries leaders, India’s Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and president of Pakistan Pervaiz Musharraf adopted a positive attitude towards each other at the January 2004 islamabad Saarc summit meeting. They also issued a joint statement in which they pledged to resume state level talks on Kashmir and they both signed the Saarc social charter at the same meeting in order to address such issues as population stabilization, human resource development, empowerment of women, young mobilization, promotion of health and nutrition and the protection of children, all of which are key issues for the welfare and wellbeing of South Asian populations. In several ways Saarc has also endeavoured to build people to people contact in South Asia. In the last Saarc working has suffered due to lack of funds and resources. Saarc does not have its own financial resources, it totally depends on the contributions of the member states, those are not interested in making Saarc more affective.