Foreign Policy Watch: India-SAARC Nations

South Asian University


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: South Asian University

Mains level: SAARC and its fading relevance

The Delhi-based South Asian University, established by all eight SAARC countries, has not had a president for over a year, while its executive council and governing board have not met for almost two and three years respectively.

Note the features of SAARC, ASEAN and East Asia Summit.

South Asian University

  • South Asian University (SAU) is an International University sponsored by the eight Member States of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
  • The eight countries are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
  • India, as the host and the largest country in the SAARC group, bore the entire capital cost for setting up the university, and also pays 50% of the operational costs.
  • SAU attracts students predominantly from all the eight SAARC countries, although students from other continents also attend.
  • There is a country quota system for admission of students. Every year SAU conducts admission test at multiple centres in all the eight countries.
  • The degrees of the university is recognised by all the member nations of the SAARC according to an inter-governmental agreement signed by the foreign ministers of the eight-member states.

Institution on failure

  • After a decade of existence, the university has yet to appoint a non-Indian president, despite rules stipulating a rotation among the member countries.
  • At a time when the Union government is trying to encourage international education in India, an existing international institution is facing a crisis of leadership.

A matter of reluctance

  • According to the agreement signed by all the SAARC countries, the first president should have been from India, and then rotated among the other countries in alphabetical order.
  • So the next president should be from the Maldives.
  • But the MEA has put an advertisement calling only for Indian applicants, but there has been no appointment after one year.

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