The meeting of foreign ministers of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc), which was scheduled to be held in New York on the sidelines of the high-level 76th United Nations General Assembly session on 18 September, has been cancelled. And the reason was Pakistan’s insistence on including on the panel a delegation from the Taliban, the terrorist organisation that has taken over Afghanistan, say sources.
The member-states could not agree on Afghanistan’s participation with Pakistan insisting that the Taliban be allowed to represent Afghanistan.
India, along with some other members of Saarc, objected to the proposal. Due to the lack of consensus or concurrence, the meeting was cancelled. Nepal was scheduled to host the meet, which is held annually on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly as several of the sessions in the past that were hosted by different member states witnessed acrimonious scenes that marred the meetings.
Several scheduled meetings of the Saarc had failed to take off in the past mainly due to the differences between India and Pakistan.
India has not yet recognised the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan and, sources in the Ministry of External Affairs say, is not likely to in the foreseeable future. The United Nations blacklisted several of its terrorists who are now ministers in the self-styled regime. Amir Khan Muttaqi is the acting foreign minister of the Taliban-led government and he is unlikely to attend any UN and affiliated meetings.
Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the SCO meeting that the Taliban was a non-inclusive government and the world must think before accepting or recognising the regime.
Modi observed during the speech that women and minorities enjoyed no representation in the Taliban ‘government’.
The Saarc is the regional intergovernmental organisation of eight countries of South Asia Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
A majority of members in the Saarc agreed that an empty chair can be kept for Afghanistan during the meet. However, Pakistan did not agree and the meeting was called off. The Saarc secretariat said that the meeting had been cancelled due to the lack of concurrence from all member states as of today.
The last time the Taliban was in power (1996-2001), the ambassador of the toppled Afghan government remained the UN representative after decisions over the Taliban’s claims were deferred.