Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday said that Pakistan is “ready to play its part” for the revival of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

In a tweet, the premier noted that today is SAARC Charter Day, “a reminder of [the] vast untapped potential of regional development, connectivity and cooperation” among South Asian countries.

He said that the people of the SAARC countries are “victims of these missed opportunities”, adding that Pakistan is ready to play its role in reviving the organisation.

The SAARC Charter Day is observed every year on December 8 and this year marks the 38th anniversary of the association.

On this day in 1985, the SAARC Charter was adopted in Dhaka, Bangladesh, during the first summit of the group.

The charter was signed by the leaders of eight South Asian countries, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The objectives outlined in the SAARC Charter include promoting the welfare of South Asians and improving their quality of life as well as accelerating economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region.

It is pertinent to note that Islamabad was to host the SAARC summit in November 2016 but because of tensions between India and Pakistan, New Delhi had boycotted the conference.

Since then, the summit could not take place as under the SAARC charter meeting of the heads of government cannot be held if any of the members stay away.

Earlier this year, however, Pakistan had reiterated its invitation to India and other members of the SAARC for the next summit scheduled to be held in Islamabad, saying New Delhi could join the moot virtually if it does not want to be present in person.

ALL ABOUT SAARC

The South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was established on 8 December 1985.

“Promoting peace, stability, amity and progress in the region,” is the first line of the SAARC charter.

The last 32 years has not seen much progress along these lines.

Indian leaders like Indira Gandhi were not interested in such an idea of a regional organisation.

After her death, her son Rajiv Gandhi signed the SAARC charter for India, hence marking the beginning of the association of regional cooperation.

Following this, the growth of SAARC can be compared to a one step forward, two steps backward growth.

The SAARC includes eight South Asian countries – India, Maldives, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

It has a permanent secretariat in Kathmandu, Nepal. The organisation was started to promote economic and cultural ties amongst its member states.

With just about 2.5% of the world’s land surface area, the South Asian region has 17% of the world’s population.

It is also one of the poorest regions of the world, ranking just second to the Sub Saharan region in Africa.

Even with the presence of five of the world’s 20 megacities, it is the least urbanized region in the world with an urban population of just about 27%.

SAARC Region is also one of the most terror prone regions of the world with frequent tensions and unrest within the member countries as well as amongst the members.

The idea was to establish better cultural and social ties amongst the member states to promote peace in the region.

It was also intended to promote trade amongst the members in order to improve the economic status of its members and to raise it from a region of poverty to a region of economic and social wellbeing.

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