SAARC meet called off as Pakistan wanted Taliban participation
A meeting of Foreign Ministers of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries has been canceled, reports said. Sources say there was a lack of consensus after Pakistan insisted that Taliban be allowed to represent Afghanistan in the meet. It was due to be held on Saturday in New York, on the sidelines of the ongoing 76th Session of the UN General Assembly.
Notably, the Taliban has not been recognized by India and most countries around the world as yet. The group returned to power last month. Most of SAARC member countries had agreed to keep an empty chair for Afghanistan during the meeting. However, Pakistan objected to that proposal and the meeting was subsequently canceled. Nepal was the host of this year's meet.
Pakistan had also insisted that none of the representatives from ousted Afghanistan government be allowed at Saturday's meeting, sources told India Today. SAARC is a regional intergovernmental organization comprising eight countries - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. It also has nine observer states, including the United States, China, the European Union, Iran, South Korea, Australia, Japan, Mauritius, and Myanmar.
The Taliban overthrew the US-backed government in Afghanistan on August 15, regaining control after 20 years of war. It has since announced members of its interim government, that includes several feared terrorists. Countries around the world, including India, have so far refused to recognize that government, saying it is non-inclusive. Women and minorities have not been given participation in the new government.
In recent years, there have been issues in conducting SAARC meetings. The Summit was canceled in 2016 after an attack on the Indian Army in Uri that was blamed on Pakistan-based terrorists. In 2019, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had boycotted India's speech at the meet to protest changes in the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.