India and Pakistan may temporarily recall their high commissioners in the wake of the diplomatic showdown between the two countries, Pakistan’s English daily Express Tribune said on Friday. While there was no official statement of denial from India, sources in New Delhi said the report was “speculative, nonsensical and fabrication”. The media report comes after names and designations of Indian mission officials and their photographs were leaked to Pakistani media on Wednesday and the Pakistan foreign ministry held a press conference on Thursday to officially announce their identities.
India is likely to evacuate eight of its diplomats and staffers from Pakistan after the government there put out their names and alleged they were Indian spies. According to sources, these diplomats are likely to return by Sunday. Quoting unnamed Pakistan officials, the media report said the “immediate fallout of this controversy could be the recalling of high commissioners by the two countries for the time being”.
The Express Tribune report also said that the fresh slide in ties may also lead to a “scaling down” of the strength of diplomatic staff by the two neighbours. While Indian government sources said the report was a figment of imagination, they pointed out that the last time an Indian High Commissioner was recalled was in December 2001, after the Parliament attack. V K Nambiar, then Indian envoy, was recalled about a week after the attack.
At that time, Pakistan High Commissioner Ashraf Jehangir Qazi was not recalled by Islamabad. But he was asked to leave by India in May 2002, after the Kaluchak massacre. The current spate of recalling of Indian diplomats started after Delhi Police last week detained a staff member of Pakistan’s High Commission in New Delhi for questioning over espionage charges. Mehmood Akhtar, who was working as a visa officer at the Pakistani High Commission, was later expelled from India.