The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and Japan
1. Overview of SAARC
(1) The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is a relatively broad regional cooperation framework in South Asia. Based on a proposal from President Ziaur Rahman of Bangladesh in 1980, SAARC was formally established at a summit held in 1985, with its Secretariat located in Kathmandu (Nepal) since 1987.
(2) The members are eight Southwest Asian countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka). Participating as observers are Japan, China, United States, European Union, Republic of Korea, Iran, Mauritius, Australia, and Myanmar.
2. The Relationship between SAARC and Japan
(1) Japan places importance on South Asia, with which it shares the basic values of continued economic development, democracy, freedom, and the rule of law, and supports cooperation within the region based on a history of good relations with each country. At the 14th SAARC Summit held in India in April 2007, then-Foreign Minister Taro Aso committed to support the Association in the areas of 1) democracy and peace-building, 2) promotion of regional connectivity, and 3) promotion of person-to-person exchanges. Moreover, at the 15th Summit in Sri Lanka, then-Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura communicated a message that incorporated specific measures of support for the SAARC in those three areas.
(2) Viewing SAARC as an association significant for its ability to provide a platform for the stability and development of the South Asia region, Japan established the Japan-SAARC Special Fund in 1993 to reinforce the Association's activities and foundation, and has implemented a variety of support and exchange programs. The Fund is the only financial support for SAARC from outside the region. In particular, concerning person-to-person exchange projects, the Special Fund is being used to implement youth exchange programs as part of the Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths (JENESYS) Program, which then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for at the East Asia Summit (EAS), held in January 2007 in Philippine. Through these programs 350 students of science and technology, students and teachers of the Japanese language, high school students, and others have been accepted from the SAARC countries from fiscal year 2007 to fiscal year 2008.
(3) Japan's participation as an observer in the SAARC was approved in principle at the 13th Summit in November 2005.
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