In the late 1970s, Bangladeshi President Ziaur Rahman proposed the creation of a trade bloc consisting of South Asian countries.
President Rahman addressed letters to the Heads of Government of the countries of South Asia, presenting his vision for the future of the region and the compelling arguments for regional cooperation in the context of evolving international realities.
The foreign secretaries of the seven countries met for the first time in Colombo in April 1981 and identified five broad areas for regional cooperation
A series of meetings followed in Nepal (Katmandu/November 1981), Pakistan (Islamabad/August, 1982), Bangladesh India (Delhi/July 1983) to enhance regional cooperation
The next step of this process was the Foreign Ministers meeting in New Delhi in 1983 where they adopted the Declaration on South Asian Regional Cooperation (SARC).
First SAARC Summit held on 7-8 December in 1985 in Dhaka where the Heads of State or Government of seven countries adopted the Charter formally establishing the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
The SAARC Secretariat was established in Kathmandu on 16 January 1987 and was inaugurated by Late King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah of Nepal
It is headed by a Secretary General
The Secretariat coordinates and monitors implementation of activities, prepares for and services meetings, and serves as a channel of communication between the Association and its Member States as well as other regional organizations
The Declaration on South Asian Regional Cooperation was adopted by the Foreign Ministers in 1983 in New Delhi. During the meeting, the Ministers also launched the Integrated Programme of Action (IPA) in nine agreed areas namely:-
The summit accorded observer status to People's Republic of China, Japan, South Korea and United States of America. The nations also agreed to organize development funds under a single financial institution with a permanent secretariat, that would cover all SAARC programs ranging from social, to infrastructure, to economic ones .
The SAARC declaration covers areas of regional cooperation, partnership for growth, connectivity, energy, environment, water resources, poverty alleviation, SAARC development fund, transport, information and communications technology development, SAFTA and trade facilitation, terrorism, and other social and cultural issues.
On energy, the Heads of State and Government recognize the need to: develop and conserve conventional sources of energy; build up renewable energy resources; and introduce energy reforms, energy efficiency and the trade and sharing of technology.
For the first time in its history, the declaration specifically mentions terrorism.
SAARC foreign ministers signed agreements on charter of the US $ 307 million SAARC Development Fund, the South Asian Regional Standards Organization, Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters (including terrorism), and taking Afghanistan into SAFTA.