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SAARC foreign ministers’ meet canceled over Taliban participation; Taliban seeks to address UNGA

The Taliban has written a letter to the United Nations (UN), seeking a chance to address the ongoing UNGA session, and nominated its Doha-based leader, Suhail Shaheen, as their representative, the UN Secretary-General Office confirmed

Sep 22, 2021
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SAARC

The Taliban has written a letter to the United Nations (UN), seeking a chance to address the ongoing UNGA session, and nominated its Doha-based leader, Suhail Shaheen, as their representative, the UN Secretary-General Office confirmed. And, yet in another blow to South Asian integration, the informal meeting of  SAARC foreign ministers on the sideline of the UNGA session was canceled on Tuesday.  

The informal meeting of the foreign ministers of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which was scheduled to take place on 25 September in New York, has been canceled, citing the “lack of concurrence” from member states. Pakistan’s alleged insistence on the inclusion of the representative of the Taliban led to the cancelation of the meet, media reports said.

The SAARC secretariat in an official letter to the foreign ministries of the member countries said it received a note verbale or unsigned diplomatic correspondence from Nepal’s foreign ministry that stated the informal meeting of foreign ministers, which was to be held on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 25, “will not take place” because of the “lack of concurrence from all member states”.

Nepal is currently the chair of the grouping which includes India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. According to the SAARC Charter, any decision in the eight-member SAARC is to be taken only by consensus among its members. 

The Taliban toppled the US-backed democratic government in Afghanistan on 15 August and announced its new interim government earlier this month.  No country - including Pakistan - has recognized the Taliban government so far. A report in News 18 also claimed that Islamabad insisted that no member of the erstwhile Ghani government should be allowed in the meeting.  

SAARC has effectively been moribund since the 2016 attack by a Pakistan-backed terrorist group in Uri, India. The strained relations between New Delhi also affected the group’s functioning, which operates on the principle of consensus. 

Significantly, Pakistan in the last few weeks allowed regional groupings such as SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) and others without the participation of the representative of Afghanistan. 

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres received communication on 15 September from the currently accredited Afghan Ambassador, Ghulam Isaczai, with the list of Afghanistan’s delegation for the assembly’s 76th annual session. Isaczai has been de-recognised by the Taliban regime in Kabul. 

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