Pakistan on Thursday described as “factually incorrect” the oft-repeated claim that India has 32 consulates in Afghanistan along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. That India is using these “consulates” to destabilise Pakistan is something that is frequently flagged by not just the religious right-wing parties but also some columnists.

Asked about a recent such claim made by a Pakistan Peoples Party legislator, Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit first sought to be non-committal by stating that “it is not for me to tell how many Indian consulates are working there” but then added: “I don't think that is correct. It is not factually correct.”

The Indian contention has been that India has an embassy in Kabul and consulates in Mazar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad, Kandahar and Herat. But, the mainstream narrative here has always contained references to scores of Indian facilitation centres along the porous Pakistan-Afghanistan border. These facilitation centres — alternatively referred to as consulates — are alleged to be engaged in subversive activities against Pakistan, particularly in the restive province of Balochistan and the strife-torn tribal agencies.

India needed

India's presence in Afghanistan has always been an eyesore for Pakistan but lately there is a growing realisation among the foreign policy elite that India — by virtue of being the largest economy in the region — has a role to play in that country's economic progress and prosperity. Pakistan also adopted an air of nonchalance last October when India and Afghanistan signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement.