Amid allegations of harassment and intimidation of diplomats of both countries, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Sohail Mahmood on Wednesday said that “current approach and methods” only go against the diplomatic efforts to make progress, and a “rethink” is needed in the current circumstances.
This comment came, even as it came to light that tension has been brewing between the two sides for a couple of months — one of the incidents involved the doorbell of the Indian deputy High Commissioner J P Singh being rung at 3 am. Since the Indian side felt that this was done by Pakistan’s security agencies, the Pakistan deputy high commissioner Syed Haider Shah’s door bell was also rung at 3 am in next few days.
In his first comments since the current crisis broke out, Mahmood — who came to India in August last year — told The Indian Express on Wednesday, “Through painstaking efforts over the past several months, we twice managed to ease tensions somewhat and began making progress on some of the tracks, including on humanitarian issues. The current approach and methods only militate against such efforts, while holding no prospect of advancing any particular objective. A re-think is in order.”
The two times he is referring to are the recent efforts which culminated on March 7, when Pakistan’s Foreign minister Khwaja Asif agreed to External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s request to exchange three categories of prisoners — women, disabled prisoners with special needs, and elderly inmates above 70 years.
In December, the two sides agreed to grant a meeting with the family to former Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, who has been accused of spying by Pakistan and is currently on death row. But the entire exercise became futile after a series of mis-steps, from frisking of the family members to meeting with a glass partition.
Sources said that the incidents of harassment and intimidation have started the day the positive efforts came to a fruition on March 7.
The Pakistan High Commissioner’s comments came on a day when two more incidents of harassment were reported against their diplomats in Delhi, taking the number of incidents of harassment and intimidation up to at least 26 in the last eight days. Out of these 26 incidents in Delhi, two were against school-going children of diplomats, sources said.
Indian government sources, however, said that they will look into the “genuine complaints, if any”. The Pakistan High Commission has lodged protests at least five times, and each of the incidents have been reported to the Ministry of External Affairs.