New Delhi: Pakistan's Taliban friendly overtures led to the cancellation of an informal meeting of SAARC Foreign Ministers in New York on September 25.
Sources said, "Due to the lack of concurrence from all member states the informal meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers' proposed to be held in person on September 25 on the sidelines of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York will not take place."
SAARC comprises eight Member States: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, which joined the regional body only in 2007. The observer status of SAARC includes Australia, China, the European Union, Iran, Japan, Mauritius, Myanmar, South Korea, and the United States.
The Pakistan government demanded the member states to 'allow' the existing Taliban regime in Afghanistan to send a representative at the foreign ministers' meeting. This was opposed, and in the absence of consensus, the meeting was cancelled. Governments across the globe have not yet recognised the new Taliban regime. Pakistan reportedly was also against the participation of representatives from the previous Ashraf Ghani regime.
Established in 1985, SAARC has not held its 19th summit since it was called off in November 2016, following India's refusal to participate. India had declined to participate to register its protest over Pakistan's involvement in the attack on a military camp in Uri. As per the SAARC charter, if any member states refuse to participate, the summit cannot be held.
Nepal became SAARC chair after it hosted the 18th summit in Kathmandu. Last year, the SAARC meeting of foreign ministers in New York was held virtually because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This year, Nepal, as SAARC chair, wanted to conduct an in-person meeting.
In 2019, Pak foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi gave a miss to Indian Minister Dr S Jaishankar' s speech at the SAARC Foreign Ministers meet convened every year on the sidelines of UNGA in New York.
It is worth mentioning that Islamabad has been keen to open dialogue with India, but New Delhi has made it clear that it is 'not shying away' from the same and said Islamabad will have to take concrete actions against terrorists taking shelter in its territory.
In 2018, the then External Affairs Minister, Late Sushma Swaraj, had snubbed Pakistan at the same SAARC Ministers meet as she had immediately left the venue after her speech and did not have any exchange of words with the Pakistani minister. The Late Minister had also told the meeting that terrorism was the single largest threat to peace and stability in South Asia.
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