In a letter to SAARC, Pakistan has demanded that the Taliban regime in Afghanistan be allowed to send a representative to the meeting of foreign ministers. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, this annual meeting was held virtually in 2020. On the sidelines of the 76th UN General Assembly in New York, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Council of Ministers was scheduled to meet in person on September 25.
The Nepalese Foreign Ministry published a communiqué stating that the meeting stands canceled due to the ‘lack of consensus from all member states’. According to sources, most SAARC member states declined Pakistan’s request to allow the Taliban regime to represent Afghanistan at the informal meeting. In addition, Pakistan insisted that no representatives of the Afghan government led by Ashraf Ghani be permitted to attend the SAARC foreign ministers’ meeting.
The majority of member states opposed these requests, so a consensus could not be reached, and the SAARC foreign ministers’ meeting scheduled for September 25 had to be canceled. Afghanistan’s democratically elected government was overthrown on August 15 this year by the Taliban. The Taliban formed an interim cabinet to manage the country’s affairs following the withdrawal of US troops from Kabul on August 31.
During the Taliban regime, Mullah Akhund, head of the Rehbari Shura, the militant group’s highest authority, named Amir Khan Muttaqi to the position of acting foreign minister. However, only a few countries recognize the Taliban regime as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. SAARC comprises eight member countries, including Afghanistan, which is the newest member. India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan make up the organization. In 1987, the South Asia Association of Regional Cooperation was formed in Kathmandu. The group also has nine observers, including China, the European Union (EU), Iran, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Japan, Mauritius, Myanmar, and the United States.