Dilemma over SAARC foreign ministers meeting on sidelines of UNGA continue, who will represent Afghanistan?

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A wide view of the 2nd plenary meeting of the 76th session of the General Assembly. The meeting dealt with the organization of work, adoption of the agenda, reports of the General Committee, and a comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
On the screens and at dais is Abdulla Shahid, President of the seventy-sixth session of the United Nations General Assembly. Photo Sept. 17, 2021: UN.org

New Delhi, September 19: During the upcoming week at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), several high-level multilateral meetings are expected to take place in which India will participate.

It is learnt that there is a possibility of Nepal hosting the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) foreign affairs ministers meet. This year all eyes will be on this meeting. It is learnt that the schedule of the meeting is still being worked out.

The dilemma for SAARC to meet this time will be on who will represent Afghanistan SAARC’s youngest member. The new regime in Kabul is still not recognised by the world and top cabinet ministers are blacklisted by the UN.

Amir Khan Muttaqi is the acting foreign minister of Taliban led government in Afghanistan and he is unlikely to attend any UN and affiliated meetings.

In fact, during the SCO meet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the new regime in Afghanistan is non-inclusive and does not have representation of all sections of Afghan society, minorities and women. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cautioned the international community before accepting or recognising the new system in Afghanistan, there should be a broad-based discussion at the global level.

Informed sources told ANI that if the meeting happens then the Afghan chair during the meet is likely to have no representation. However, a former diplomat of Nepal was quoted by Kathmandu Post in which he cast doubt on whether the meeting will happen or not.

“How to convene the meeting is an issue because we don’t know yet who will represent Afghanistan,” said Durga Bhattarai, a former permanent representative of Nepal to the UN in New York. “Have we recognised the new regime in Afghanistan yet?”

The meeting is an informal annual affair. Last year, it happened in a virtual format. In the meeting external affairs minister reiterated India’s commitment towards SAARC, response to Covid-19, economic recovery, need for connectivity and scourge of terrorism was discussed.

The SAARC in-person meet during 2019 saw a bitter tiff and drama as foreign ministers of India and Pakistan boycotted each other’s speech.

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