India and Pakistan have withdrawn eight officials each, including senior diplomats, from their missions in each other’s country following the expulsion of Pakistani High Commission staffer, Mehboob Akhtar, over alleged spying. In written reply to question in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said, on November 2, Pakistan government withdrew six High Commission officials, whose names had reportedly appeared in media following the interrogation of Akhtar, who was accused by Delhi police of running a spy ring.
Pakistan withdrew two more officials along with seven family members on November 16, she said. Noting that on November 2, Pakistani media prominently carried names of eight Indian High Commission officials, alleging they were involved in “subversive and terrorist activities”, Swaraj said on November 3, at it weekly media briefing, Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs also officially released their names and designations.
“The litany of baseless charges against them was repeated,” she said. In view of safety and security of these officials and their family members, all of them returned to India in three batches on November 8, 10 and 12, 2016, the minister said. “The allegations against Indian officials represent an afterthought on the part of Government of Pakistan and constitute a crude attempt to tarnish the image of India.
“The manner in which their names and photographs were prominently published in Pakistani media along with baseless allegation reiterated without any corroboration by Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs is against the Vienna Convention and also violates the norms of established diplomatic practice and courtesies,” she added. As per the understanding between India and Pakistan, the effective strength of their respective diplomatic missions cannot exceed 110 at any point of time.