The greatest achievement of SAARC is that, for the first time, it brought together those nations, who distrust each-other the most; which are politically the most explosive and are at different levels of development. The counteracting forces were prominently controlling the situation, but it was strong desire for collective benefits and acute feeling of coming together that prevailed and SAARC was born.
SAARC has achieved significant success in economic field and has ventured into vital cooperation in the core sectors of Trade, Commence, Finance and Money. The most important agreement, SAFTA, has led to abolition of double taxation, free movement of certain commodities across the border and preferential treatment to regional trade than trade outside the region. Most of the member countries have accorded ‘Most- Favoured Nation’ status to each other under the SAFTA. But Pakistan has not done so in case of India. Still, SAFTA is a positive step to free the regional trade totally and bring about a Economic Union in future. There is extensive collaboration between the stock exchanges and between Chambers of Commerce & Industries.
SAARC has gained lot of momentum in the fields of Education, Sports, Culture and media. South Asian University has become fully functional and there are scholarships & fellowships for research in various fields. Cultural exchanges are taking place through film festivals, literary seminars, cultural festivals, media programmes and food festivals, etc. Organised tourism of the region is getting boost through VISA exemptions & group tours. Special attention is given to the involvement of Youth through Youth Volunteers Programmes, SAARC Youth Award for constructive contribution and Sports Competitions.
In the fields of Science & Technology, meaningful & constructive exchanges have taken place in the areas which are relevant to South Asian economy. These include – Solar energy, Bio-fertilizers, Low-cost housing, Prawn Hatcheries, Electronics and Molecular Biology, Bio-Mass Gasification; Recycling of Waste Water and Development of Technologies for Pollution Control, Post Harvest and Food Technology; Renewable Energy Resources; Photovoltaic; Pesticides; Instrumentation, Maintenance and Calibration, Cultivation and Processing of Medicine and Aromatic Plants, Weather Forecasting, Radar Meteorology, Telecommunication and so on.
SAARC has also ventured into some controversial areas by signing a Convention on Terrorism, Convention on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse. These are very serious issues disturbing South Asia. SAARC forum created a positive atmosphere to conclude these important treaties.
Health & Population studies have also benefitted through SAARC. Intensive research and exchanges have taken place regarding children, population welfare and policy, maternal and child health, primary health care, disabled and handicapped persons, control and eradication of major diseases in the region such as malaria, leprosy, tuberculosis, diarrhea diseases, rabies, AIDS, and iodine deficiency disorder. Special attention is being given to Women and Girl Child and problem of feticide.
Agriculture & Rural Development have received maximum attention from SAARC as it is the backbone of South Asian economy. Seminars and training courses covering practically all aspects of rural development including regional planning, poverty focused development, rural energy, design of agricultural projects, local level planning, inter-country comparisons, appropriate technology, disaster management, rural child development, rural sociology, peoples participation, rural water supply, employment generation, social forestry, rural communication and development of agricultural markets have been conducted so far. Most important SAARC has created a data base that will be useful to all the members.
SAARC has spread its wings outside the region also and established collaboration with UNCTAD, UNICEF, UNDP, APT, UNDPC, ITU, ESCAP and countries like Japan, Germany. Observer status has been given to Australia, Iran, Mauritius, Myanmar, US, South Korea. This has enabled SAARC to negotiate jointly for region-specific schemes. This has also boosted global status of the countries.