New Delhi: India has asked Pakistan to reduce by 50 per cent its staff strength at the high commission here within a week.
The decision comes a day after five officials of the Indian High Commission in Pakistan, including the two who were arrested and later released in an alleged hit-and-run case there, returned to the country through the Attari-Wagah border.
New Delhi has said it will take a similar step on a reciprocal basis and reduce staff strength at its mission in Islamabad.
India also summoned Syed Haidar Shah, Charge d’ Affaires of Pakistan and acting High Commissioner, Tuesday and informed him about repeated concerns over the high commission officials’ whereabouts and activities.
“While their officials indulged in actions that are not in conformity with their privileged status in the High Commission, Pakistan has in parallel engaged in a sustained campaign to intimidate the officials of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad from carrying on their legitimate diplomatic functions,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement, referring to the two Indian officials who returned Monday.
According to the Ministry of External Affairs, these two officers have “provided graphic details of the barbaric treatment that they experienced at the hands of 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 of a larger policy of supporting cross-border violence and terrorism,” the statement said.
Reduced to 110 each after the Pulwama attacks last year, the staff strength on both sides is expected to come down to 55 now.
Move comes weeks after espionage case
Diplomatic ties between India and Pakistan were unilaterally downgraded by Islamabad on 7 August after the Narendra Modi government revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the erstwhile state into two union territories.
India’s then high commissioner to Pakistan, Ajay Bisaria, was subsequently asked by Islamabad to return to India mid-tenure. Bisaria is now posted in Canada as India’s High Commissioner.
“It was already down at the maximum strength. Diplomatic channels will remain open with the basic key position but the relationship has gone into a deep freeze. This is not unprecedented, it has happened before also during the Kargil War followed the coup while recalling of high commissioners have also taken place,” said Sharat Sabharwal, former High Commissioner of India to Pakistan.
Earlier this month, two Pakistan High Commission officials were caught on espionage charges and subsequently expelled from India, after they were trying to obtain top security documents related to Indian security establishment.
‘India should focus on internal, external issues’
Meanwhile, Indian Chargé d’ Affaires Gaurav Ahluwalia was also summoned by the Pakistan foreign ministry Tuesday.
Rejecting the claims Pakistan said, “India cannot obfuscate the illegal activities in which the Indian High Commission officials were found involved in. The MEA’s statement is another effort to distort facts and deny the culpability of these Indian High Commission officials in criminal offences.
“India would be better advised to focus on its internal and external issues, rather than creating diversions at the cost of peace and stability in South Asia. Pakistan has been consistently sensitising the world community that irresponsible policies of the BJP government are increasingly imperilling regional peace and stability,” it said.