July 1, 2020 7:08:37 am
Twenty-eight staffers, including diplomats of Indian High Commission in Pakistan, returned on Tuesday, while 39 staff members of Pakistan High Commission here returned to Pakistan through the Wagah border.
“Today 39 staff members of Pakistan High Commission along with their families returned to Pakistan via Wagah border. 28 members of Indian High Commission and their families have also returned to India today via Wagah/Attari,” the Pakistan High Commission said.
This came a week after India had asked Pakistan to reduce the strength of its High Commission in New Delhi by half, and said it would do the same at its mission in Islamabad within a week.
Last such 50-per cent downgrade of the Indian and Pakistan High Commissions was done after the Parliament terror attack in December 2001 — the then External Affairs Minister, Jaswant Singh, had asked for a reduction to be completed within 48 hours.
Tuesday’s move came after two Indian High Commission staffers were detained by Pakistani authorities and released only after New Delhi protested. Last month, India had expelled two Pakistan High Commission officials for spying in New Delhi.
Ten months ago, Pakistan had downgraded bilateral ties after India revoked special status granted to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370.
India had followed suit then – and Tuesday’s decision, conveyed to the Acting High Commissioner of Pakistan who was summoned to the Ministry of External Affairs in South Block, further downgraded the relationship. Both countries had then withdrawn their High Commissioners.
According to bilateral understanding, India and Pakistan have 110 diplomats and staffers each in their High Commissions in the other country. This number will now come down to 55 in each national capital.
Pakistan “categorically rejected and strongly condemned the baseless allegations made by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs as a pretext to seek 50% reduction in the staff strength of the High Commission for Pakistan in New Delhi”, its Foreign ministry in Islamabad had said.
In New Delhi, the MEA said, “The Charge d’Affaires of Pakistan was summoned today to the Ministry of External Affairs and informed that India had repeatedly expressed concern about the activities of officials of his High Commission. They have been engaged in acts of espionage and maintained dealings with terrorist organizations. The activities of the two officials caught red-handed and expelled on 31 May 2020 was one example in that regard.”
The MEA statement said: “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 recent abduction at gunpoint of two Indian officials and their severe ill-treatment underlines the extent to which Pakistan has gone in that direction. These officials who have returned to India on 22 June 2020 have provided graphic details of the barbaric treatment that they experienced at the hands of Pakistani agencies.”
The MEA had said, “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.
“Therefore, the Government of India has taken the decision to reduce the staff strength in the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi by 50%. 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.”
In a statement, the Pakistan Foreign ministry had said that it “completely dismisses allegations of any violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations by the officials of the High Commission for Pakistan in New Delhi and reiterates that they always function within the parameters of international law and diplomatic norms.”
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