Reduce embassy staff by 50% in 7 days: India downgrades its diplomatic ties with Pakistan.
After Pakistani visa officials were caught spying in India and Indian officials were harassed in Islamabad, the MEA today summoned Pakistan's Charge d’ Affaires and told him that to cut staff at the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi by 50 per cent. India said it will be doing the same at its High Commission in Islamabad.
The Ministry of External Affairs summoned Pakistan's Charge d’ Affaires Syed Haidar Shah today and asked him to reduce staff at the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi as India is concerned over their conduct. MEA officials informed Shah that India had repeatedly expressed concern about the activities of officials of his High Commission.
India has asked Pakistan to reduce staff at its High Commission in New Delhi by 50 per cent within seven days. It said it will also be reducing its workforce at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.
According to MEA representatives, the staff at the Pakistan High Commission has been "engaged in acts of espionage and maintained dealings with terrorist organizations".
India pointed out the activities of the two Pakistan visa officials who were caught red-handed and expelled on May 31, 2020, after it emerged that they were spying.
The MEA also raised concern over the harassment of Indian officials in Pakistan. On June 15, Pakistani authorities detained two officials of the Indian high commission in Islamabad in a case of alleged "hit and run" and released them after over 10 hours following India's strong demarche and a blunt message to Islamabad that the duo must be freed immediately.
"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," MEA representatives said.
India said that once the abducted Indian officials returned home on June 22, they 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 MEA officials added.
"Therefore, the Government of India has taken the decision to reduce the staff strength in the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi by 50 per cent. It would reciprocally reduce its own presence in Islamabad to the same proportion. This decision, which is to be implemented in seven days, was conveyed to the Pakistani Charge d’Affaires," they said.
Later, Pakistan on Tuesday rejected what it called “baseless allegations” by India of any violation of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations by its High Commission officials in New Delhi and asserted that they always function within the parameters of international law.
Indian Chargé d’ Affaires in Islamabad was summoned to convey Pakistan’s rejection and condemnation of the “baseless Indian allegations”, the Foreign Office said.
"The Indian Chargé d’ Affaires was also informed of Pakistan’s decision to reduce the Indian High Commission’s staff strength by 50 per cent as a reciprocal measure,” the FO said, adding that the Indian diplomat was asked to implement the decision conveyed to him within seven days.
Nearly a month ago, India expelled two Pakistan High Commission officials in New Delhi on charges of espionage.
India had declared Abid Hussain and Muhammad Tahir as 'persona non grata' after they were found obtaining sensitive documents relating to the movement of Indian Army troops from an Indian national.
Following their expulsion, Pakistani agencies started harassing a number of mission officials in Islamabad including charge d'affaires Gaurav Ahluwalia.
Ahluwalia's car was aggressively tailed by Pakistani agencies on at least two occasions following which India lodged a strong protest with the Pakistan Foreign Office.
After the expulsion of the two Pakistani officials, it was expected that Pakistan would also resort to a tit-for-tat response, going by similar episodes in the past.
Pakistan later arrested two Indian High Commission officials in Islamabad, accusing them of being involved in a hit-and-run case. They were released after strong protests by India and later returned home.
The diplomatic warfare comes in the midst of frayed ties between the two countries over the reorganisation of the status of Jammu and Kashmir by the Indian government.
Pakistan had downgraded diplomatic ties by expelling the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad following India's decision to withdraw the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August last year.
The last time India downgraded diplomatic ties by asking Pakistan to reduce the staff strength in its high commission was after the Parliament attack in December 2001. However, as relations improved by 2005, the staff strength at both missions returned to the normal level.