The new Saarc secretary general from Pakistan, Amjad Hussain B Sial, assumed office on Wednesday after India cleared the decks for his appointment, officials in the Nepalese capital said.
Sial replaced Arjun Bahadur Thapa of Nepal, who has completed his tenure.
Tensions between India and Pakistan, which resulted in the cancellation of the Saarc Summit in Islamabad last year, had cast a cloud over Sial’s appointment. India had said the appointment should be endorsed by the Saarc Council of Ministers, and not through a diplomatic note.
Nepalese officials said India and Pakistan had apparently patched up their differences over the appointment.
According to the Saarc process, the rejection of a candidate by even one member state means the appointment cannot go ahead. The Indian government had drawn attention to Article V of the memorandum of understanding for establishing the Saarc Secretariat, which specifies that the secretary general should be appointed by the Council of Ministers.
Officials said consensus on Sial’s name became possible after a recent thaw in relations between India and Pakistan.
The two countries have differences over several key Saarc initiatives, such as the Motor Vehicle Agreement, Saarc Energy Grid and the Saarc Satellite programme proposed by India.
The Saarc summit was cancelled shortly after a terror attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri last September that New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based groups. The 19th Saarc Summit was to be held in Islamabad last November.
A statement from the Saarc secretariat described Sial as a “seasoned diplomat” with a career spanning more than 33 years. He has a master’s degree in defence and strategic studies from the National Defence University in Islamabad.
Sial also has experience in bilateral and multilateral diplomacy in Islamabad and Pakistani missions abroad. He served as director (Pakistan) at the Saarc secretariat in Kathmandu during 2003-06 and special secretary in the foreign ministry in Islamabad.
Saarc has often been hit by India-Pakistan tensions. Sial will now have the challenge of getting the member states to agree to go ahead with the stalled summit.