Hinduism is said to be a non-violent religion, Buddhism is supposed to be synonymous with ahinsa and Islam, they say, means peace. Yet the followers of these faiths inhabiting the countries of South Asia have been perpetrators and victims of violence as perhaps no other region of the world in the last two decades.
In the early ’80s we thought that, like others in the world, it was time we too came together as good neighbours and worked out a pact of mutual cooperation and collective welfare. Thus in 1983 the Declaration on South Asian Regional Cooperation was adopted by the foreign ministers of seven countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – in New Delhi. Two years later the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was formally established. On India’s initiative, Afghanistan was welcomed to the SAARC club in 2005 as its eighth member.
The objectives of SAARC as defined in its Charter are noble:
* to promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and to improve their quality of life;
* to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region and to provide all individuals the opportunity to live in dignity and to realise their full potential;
* to promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia;
* to contribute to mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another’s problems;
* to promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields;
* to strengthen cooperation with other developing countries;
* to strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums on matters of common interest; and
* to cooperate with international and regional organisations with similar aims and purposes.
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