A day after two staffers of the Indian High Commission in Pakistan, who went “missing” for most of Monday and “returned” after India summoned Pakistan’s Acting High Commissioner Syed Haider Shah and issued a demarche, the government on Tuesday again summoned Shah and lodged “a strong protest” on the two officials’ “abduction and torture” by Pakistan’s security agencies for 10 hours.
In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that the two Indian officials were subjected to “interrogation, torture and physical assault resulting in grievous injuries to them”.
It stated: “They were video-graphed and coerced to accept a litany of fictitious allegations and concocted charges. The vehicle of the High Commission, in which they were travelling, was extensively damaged. The Government of India strongly condemns and deplores the action of the Pakistani authorities in this regard.
“This premeditated, grave and provocative action on the part of the Pakistani authorities, preceded by intensified surveillance, harassment and intimidation of High Commission personnel over the past several days, was designed to obstruct and disrupt the normal functioning of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad. The attempt by Pakistani authorities to levy false accusations and concocted charges on the officials of the High Commission is rejected in entirety.”
The MEA said that these actions by Pakistan not only constitute an “egregious violation” of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 but also the ‘Code of Conduct for treatment of Diplomatic/Consular personnel in India and Pakistan’, signed in 1992 and reaffirmed by both sides in March 2018. It is also “against all established norms and practices of diplomatic conduct”, the MEA stated.
“Our grave concerns at the fact that the Pakistan agencies threatened to physically harm more officials of the Indian Mission have been shared. It has been highlighted that Pakistan is responsible for the safety and security of the Indian High Commission, its officials, staff members, their families and properties,” the MEA said.
It said that such continued unilateral actions by Pakistan, aimed at escalating tensions, will not succeed in diverting attention from the core issue of Pakistan’s continued hostile activities and sponsorship of cross-border terrorism against India.
The Pakistan Foreign ministry, meanwhile, said it “categorically rejects the irresponsible statement and baseless allegations” made by MEA in the case of “hit-and-run” by the Indian High Commission officials, and alleged possession of fake currency. “The MEA’s statement is a reprehensible attempt to distort facts and deny culpability of these officials in criminal offences,” it said in a statement.
According to the Pakistan Foreign ministry, the two officials were speeding and crashed their car into a pedestrian, who was seriously injured in the mishap and was taken to hospital for treatment. “The officials attempted to flee…some passersby stopped them and informed the police…. During investigation, fake currency was recovered from aforementioned officials. The senior Indian diplomat was reminded that possession of fake currency and ‘hit-and-run’after an incident are serious offences…”
The latest incident comes 10 days after reports emerged of Pakistan’s ISI personnel chasing a vehicle in which India’s Acting High Commissioner Gaurav Ahluwalia was travelling in Islamabad.
On May 31, India had expelled two officials of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi on charges of spying — the first such move since 2016.
India and Pakistan downgraded their diplomatic ties in August last year after revocation of special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 — both countries recalled their High Commissioners. Their High Commissions are currently led by Deputy High Commissioners.
In October 2016, amid an atmosphere marked with suspicion and mistrust, New Delhi and Islamabad had expelled each other’s High Commission officials