The Summit also re-affirmed the commitment of the seven South Asian countries to the Charter of the United Nations which, the declaration said, constituted the most important forum for resolution of all issues affecting international peace and security.
In the fifth SAARC Summit held in Male, the capital of Maldives, all the member countries signed an agreement on restructuring the SAAHC activity and extending it to core areas of economic cooperation. Biotechnology environment and tourism a serious concern was also expressed over growing linkages among drug trafficking, international arms trade activities. Besides these three important institutions, the Human Resource Development Centre at Islamabad, the Regional Tuberculosis Centre at Kathmandu and the Regional Documentation Centre at New Delhi were also approved.
The leadership of the SAARC was passed over to Maldives with the President, Mr. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, taking over as the Chairman from Pakistan. Moreover, the leaders also agreed to observe 1991 as the “SAARC Year of Shelter”, 1992 as “SAARC Year of Environment”, and 1993 as “SAARC Year of Disabled Persons”.
The sixth Summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation scheduled to begin in Colombo on November 7, 1991 was postponed. The ostensible reason for the Summit’s cancellation was the inability of the King of Bhutan to attend the meeting because of trouble in his kingdom. It was cancelled because the SAARC Charter stipulates that all seven members of the organisation should attend summits.
Later on, the sixth Summit was held on December 21, 1991 in Colombo. All of the seven member countries agreed to liberalise trade in the region, with the Prime Minister of India proposing a “collective economic security system”. It was pointed out that the regional economic co-operation was the only alternative which will be able to fulfil the need for an effective safeguard for further developing and strengthening economies of developing countries.
The general trend towards disarmament was welcomed at the Summit. The trend towards safeguarding human rights was also welcomed but it was felt that this could not be viewed in “narrow and exclusively political terms”. It was noted that civil and political rights on the one hand and economic and social rights on the other were “interdependent and of equal importance”. The Heads of Governments also decided to closely examine the proposal to establish a SAARC preferential trade arrangement by 1997.
The Seventh SAARC Summit was held in Dhaka (Bangladesh) in 1993 and the eighth in New Delhi in May 1995. A permanent secretariat of SAARC has been set up at Kathmandu in Nepal.
The ninth SAARC Summit was held in Male, the capital of Maldives, from May 12 to 14, 1997. In the ninth Summit it was evident that the Summit had lost much of its appeal. The bitter relationship between India and Pakistan is the main obstacle in the path of regional co-operation.
The SAARC Summit in Colombo was held towards the end of July 1998. The Colombo Declaration issued at the end of the three-day Summit did not directly refer to the nuclear blasts at Pokhran and Chagai Hills in May 1998, but criticised major nuclear weapons, despite a worldwide commitment to nuclear disarmament.
At the opening session of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit in Kathmandu, on January 5, 2002 the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee conveyed to Pakistan and its ally in the war on terrorism, the U.S.A. and others that mere gestures of friendship and readiness for talks were futile if they were not matched by action to stop cross-border terrorism. SAARC signed two important conventions which sought to prevent trafficking of women and children for prostitution and the use of child labour in the region.
The 12th SAARC was hosted by Pakistan in Islamabad in June 2004. Bangladesh was the host for the 13th SAARC Summit held in Dhaka from November 12-13, 2005. The 14th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Summit (SAARC) was held in New Delhi during April 3-4, 2007. In his inaugural address, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh announced unilateral liberalistion of visas for students, teachers, professors, journalists and patients from SAARC. He also announced zero-duty access to India before and end of2007 to the least developed countries (LDCs) of South Asia and offered to further reduce the sensitive list in respect to this countries.
The 15th SAARC Summit was held in Colombo (Sri Lanka) on August 2-3, 2008. Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh led the Indian delegation. The need to provide security to the people of South Asia from hunger and terrorism dominated the 2-day meet. In this connection, the Colombo Declaration on Food Security was made under the theme, Partnership for Growth of Our People. Operationalisation of SAARC Development Fund was also mooted. On terorism, the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters was signed to provide a greater sense of security within the region. Bhutan (Thimphu) would host the next (16th) SAARC Summit in 2010.
A permanent secretariat of the SAARC has been set up at Kathmandu in Nepal. The chairmanship of the organisation remains with the country which hostes the last summit and is transferred to the new host at the time of the next summit.
Let us hope that SAARC would, by the combined efforts and determination of the seven South Asian nations, be able to improve the security environment in the region, generate co-operation among them in the economic and cultural fields, and provide a better life for their people.