India and Pakistan’s diplomatic ties fell a notch further today, with India deciding to pare its diplomatic staff in Pakistan by 50 per cent, and asking Pakistan to do the same.
The High Commissions of both countries have been run by charge dáffaires ever since Ajay Bisaria returned from Islamabad last August after India abrogated Article 370 and Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties over what it called New Delhi’s unilateral and illegal move to remove the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Islamabad was to send its new envoy to India, Moin ul Haq, but that move was also cancelled.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) summoned the charge d’affaires of the Pakistan High Commission, Haider Shah, on Tuesday to inform him that the Government of India had decided to reduce staff strength at the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi by 50 per cent. It would reciprocally reduce its presence in Islamabad to the same proportion. This decision is to be implemented in seven days.
The MEA informed Shah that India had repeatedly expressed concern about the activities of officials in his High Commission. They have been engaged in acts of espionage and maintained dealings with terrorist organisations. The activities of the two officials caught red-handed and expelled on May 31, 2020, was an example in that regard, said a statement from the MEA.
The MEA added that while the Pakistani officials in New Delhi indulged in actions not in conformity with their privileged status, Pakistan, in parallel, engaged in a sustained campaign to intimidate officials of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad from carrying out their legitimate diplomatic functions. The recent abduction at gunpoint of two Indian officials and their severe ill-treatment underlines the extent to which Pakistan has gone in this direction. These officials, who returned to India on June 22, have provided graphic details of the barbaric treatment that they experienced at the hands of the Pakistani agencies.
The behaviour of Pakistan and its officials is not in conformity with the Vienna Convention and bilateral agreements on the treatment of diplomatic and consular officials. On the contrary, it is an intrinsic element to a larger policy of supporting cross border violence and terrorism, the MEA said.
Shah had been summoned to the ministry a week ago, too, when India protested the abduction of its staffers, who were kept in illegal custody for ten hours and tortured and injured. The two men returned to India via the Wagah-Attari border along with three other officials of the high commission yesterday. Earlier this month, India had detained two employees of the Pakistan High Commission on charges of espionage, declared them persona non grata, and told them to leave within 24 hours. The abduction of the Indian employees in Islamabad, allegedly for a hit and run accident, was in response to India’s act.
India’s regional diplomatic ties are under stress from several fronts. While high-level talks are on to de-escalate tensions with China, after the face-off last week which resulted in a blood bath on both sides, Nepal has been continuously provoking India with legislation after another that cocks a snook at the bilateral.
Tensions with Pakistan have remained high for the last several years. However, the abrogation of Article 370 last August got China, Pakistan and Nepal riled when India released a new map delineating the union territory of Ladakh. Territorial issues with all three countries rose to the fore. Meanwhile, India is battling infiltration attempts in Kashmir. It recently also captured a Chinese-made-drone, sent from Pakistan, with a cache of ammunition.
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