Updated: March 28, 2018 2:44:30 am
A FORTNIGHT into the tit-for-tat diplomatic spat, New Delhi and Islamabad have started working the phones at the “senior official level” to put a stop to incidents of harassment and intimidation of diplomats and their families, sources have told The Indian Express. This phase was the worst since 2002-2003, when similar incidents of harassment were reported by both sides.
Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua is 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 is also in discussions with the Ministry of External Affairs. A source said, “We are talking (on the issue)…we are in touch (with each other).”
Upset at Pakistan’s security agencies “raiding” the under-construction residential complex of the Indian High Commission on the night of February 15, India had decided at the highest level to hit back at Pakistan’s establishment after nearly 15 days of deliberations and requests to Pakistan Foreign Ministry to make amends.
“The decision was not taken lightly… after considering that Pakistan’s side had violated the basic rule of not entering each other’s diplomatic premises,” a source said. The decision was taken nearly 5-6 days before the tailing and blocking of cars belonging to Pakistan’s diplomats and their families began on March 7, sources said.
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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.
Sources said that while aggressive tailing of Indian diplomats continues in Islamabad, incidents of harassment in New Delhi have also been reported.
According to sources, an Indian contractor who provides different types of services — from regular civil works to electrical and plumbing jobs in Pakistan High Commission’s residential complex — has not resumed work yet. Sources in Pakistan’s High Commission said such work has to be resumed and the situation has to be restored to how it was before March 6.
Sohail Mahmood, who had been called back for consultations in Islamabad, returned on the eve of Pakistan’s National Day on March 23.
“The issue of harassment of Indian and Pakistan diplomats had marred the atmosphere created by positive response to the humanitarian proposals… efforts are underway to once again build the atmosphere for the humanitarian gestures, related to prisoners,” the source said.
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