India and Pakistan on Friday mutually agreed to resolve matters related to the treatment of diplomats and diplomatic premises, after almost three weeks of harassment and intimidation of diplomats and their families.
In statements issued by both foreign ministries, they said, “India and Pakistan have mutually agreed to resolve matters related to the treatment of diplomats and diplomatic premises, in line with the 1992 ‘Code of Conduct for the treatment of diplomatic/consular personnel in India and Pakistan’.”
The Indian Express had reported on March 27 that a fortnight into the tit-for-tat diplomatic spat, New Delhi and Islamabad had started working the phones at the “senior official level” to put a stop to the incidents of harassment and intimidation of diplomats and their families. This phase of tit-for-tat was the worst phase since 2002-03, when similar incidents of harassment were reported by both sides. The breakthrough came after weeks of conversations between the two sides.
Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua was in touch with Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad Ajay Bisaria in a bid to stop the incidents of harassment, while Pakistan’s envoy Sohail Mahmood was in discussions with the Ministry of External Affairs. A source said, “We are talking (on the issue)… we are in touch (with each other).”
Sources said the decision to “retaliate” against Pakistan’s diplomats was taken in New Delhi, after Pakistan’s security agencies “raided” the under-construction Indian High Commission residential complex in Islamabad’s Diplomatic Conclave on the intervening night of February 15 and 16.
The Pakistan authorities had said they were concerned about the lack of security clearance of some of the workers at the construction site. Following the “raid” by Pakistan’s security agencies, water and power connection to the complex was also disrupted.
While the Indian side raised the issue with Pakistan’s foreign ministry through diplomatic channels — Indian envoy Ajay Bisaria had met top officials in Pakistan’s foreign ministry on February 16 — South Block deliberated on the “quality of the response”. Sources said that New Delhi decided to “retaliate” with “much bigger force” in a bid to drive home the message to Pakistan’s establishment. This led to almost daily incidents of harassment and intimidation, including with families of Pakistan’s diplomats, since March 7.
In its 16th ‘Note Verbale’ to the Pakistan Foreign Ministry on March 22, the Indian High Commission specifically mentioned three incidents of harassment of senior officials.
Pakistan had claimed that there had been as many as 26 instances of harassment and intimidation of its diplomats since March 7, following which Islamabad called back its high commissioner Sohail Mahmood for discussions on the issue.
While Pakistan High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood had been called back for consultations in Islamabad, he returned on the eve of Pakistan’s National Day on March 23.