Amid strain in the relationship between India and Pakistan, South Block has classified the Indian mission in Islamabad as a “non-school-going mission”. This means that diplomatic staff can no longer make their schoolgoing children stay with them. However, their spouses are allowed to stay in Islamabad.
About 60 schoolgoing children of Indian diplomats will now have to discontinue their studies in Islamabad. The decision could compel many staffers at the mission to return to India.
Sources said that in Islamabad, a ‘no kids policy’ is followed by a number of missions, including Germany, France, Australia, UN organisations, UK (under 12), US, Canada and the European Union. “India’s approach is in consonance with the policy adopted by several nations,” a source said.
While it is not clear if there has been a specific security threat, concerns about the safety of children of Indian diplomats were raised after an attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School in December 2014, which claimed 144 lives.
Confirming the move, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, “It is a normal practice for all countries to review staffing and related policies for their diplomatic missions, including in view of prevailing circumstances at those stations. With effect from this academic session, officials posted in the High Commission of India in Islamabad have been advised to make arrangements for education of their wards outside Pakistan, till further notice.”
Sources said the decision was taken in June 2015 — a year ago — to allow sufficient time for staff members to make alternative arrangements for their wards. The decision will come into play once schools reopen after summer vacations.
Sources claimed that Pakistan may have “leaked this one-year-old decision now” to “create tension and India-Pakistan conflict” because Pakistan’s rhetoric on Kashmir “is not getting traction”.
Statements made by Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8 have incensed India. Sharif recently remarked that “Kashmir will one day become Pakistan”, a comment which evoked a sharp reaction from External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who said his dream “will not be realised even at the end of eternity”.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nafees Zakaria, meanwhile, said that “this is an informal, internal, administrative arrangement we were informed of two months back. No other considerations were communicated to us”.
According to officials, around 50 children of the officials and staff at the Indian High Commission study at the International School of Islamabad, popularly known as American School. Many children from the diplomatic community attend this school. Ten other children study at Roots International School.