Deck cleared for Sial’s appointment as Saarc gen secy

  • Likely to take office on March 1 after India’s go-ahead
- Amjad Hussain B Sial, Kathmandu

Feb 26, 2017-

Amjad Hussain B Sial of Pakistan is set to be appointed the new general secretary of Saarc, after India finally “lifted” its objection to his nomination.

A recent tension between India and Pakistan had created confusion over Sial’s appointment as Arjun Bahadur Thapa of Nepal completes his term at the end of February. Sial is expected to assume office at the Saarc Secretariat in Kathmandu on March 1.

A senior Nepal government official told the Post that India has provided its approval for Sial’s appointment. Nepal is preparing to endorse the candidate, he said. This deal could provide a much needed momentum to the stalled Saarc process.

Pakistan had proposed Sial for the post of secretary general during the Pokhara meeting of the Saarc Council of Ministers in March last year. It was Pakistan’s turn to appoint its general secretary of the regional grouping whose last summit scheduled to be held in Islamabad was cancelled due to escalating tensions between the two nuclear rivals.

The Islamabad Summit was supposed to endorse his name. The Saarc Secretariat had circulated a note in January to the eight members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, seeking their approval for Sial’s appointment.

India had maintained that the appointment should be endorsed by the Saarc Council of Ministers, and not through a diplomatic note, sources said. Nepali officials said India and Pakistan seem to have patched up their differences lately over the appointment.

According to the Saarc process, rejection by even one member state means the appointment cannot go ahead. The Indian response had drawn attention to “Article V of the memorandum of understanding on the establishment of the Saarc Secretariat that specifies the requirement of appointment by the Council of Ministers for the secretary general”.

All the member states have their representatives (an under-secretary level diplomat) at the Saarc Secretariat. Officials argue that consensus on Sial’s name was possible after a recent thaw in relations between India and Pakistan.

The two countries have differences over some key Saarc initiatives such as the Motor Vehicle Agreement, Saarc Energy Grid and the Saarc Satellite proposed by India. A terrorist attack on the Indian military base in Uri last September led to the postponement of the 19th Saarc Summit scheduled to take place in Pakistan in November, 2017.

In a letter to the Saarc Secretariat last month, India expressed its concern that “formal communications on this important matter are not being circulated to all member states by the secretariat”, requesting adherence to the working procedure.

Published: 26-02-2017 09:08

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