Connecting Regions of Asia.

Row over ’empty’ Afghan seat by Pakistan cancels SAARC FMs meet


The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation or SAARC informal Foreign ministers meet due to happen on September 25 amid the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) 2021 has been cancelled over Pakistan’s objection to who will represent Afghanistan at the meet. SAARC had reached a consensus with Afghanistan’s representation with an “empty seat” as a key solution for the informal Foreign Ministers meet to take place.

Consensus broke with Pakistan’s insisting its certain conditions, which included Taliban representation. At the United Nations, Afghan Republic’s envoy Ghulam Isaczai still represents his country. He is listed to speak at the UNGA as well for his country. 

A note verbale by Nepal foreign ministry sent on 21st September said, “due to lack of concurrence from all member states as of today, the informal meeting of the SAARC council of ministers proposed to be held in person on 25th September 2021….will not take place”. Nepal is the chair of the grouping. The SAARC secretariat also sent a similar letter of cancellation of the meet.

Important to know that the SAARC Secretariat had sent a note verbale on September 14, announcing the date for the meet on the 25th, at 3 pm, New York time. Nepal as the chair decides as to who is sent the invite. It is not known, who Nepal sent the invite when it comes to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan saw a dramatic change of government on August 15, after the national capital Kabul fell into the hands of the Taliban. In the chaos, the Afghan Republic’s government led by President Dr Ashraf Ghani fell. This has led to questions over who represents Afghanistan at various international forums, but so far Afghan mission representatives globally appointed by Ashraf Ghani hold the fort.

The current development assumes significance since even during the worst of India Pakistan ties; like in 2019, the meet happened on the sidelines of UNGA. Last year, the meet happened in virtual mode. The meeting has been taking place since 1997 annually on the sidelines of the UNGA.

Courtesy –

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