National

Old ghosts come back to haunt ‘Mohali spirit'

Both sides breached an eight-year-old informal agreement to conform to civil norms of behaviour whenever diplomats or staff from either country are suspected to have not honoured the severe restrictions imposed on their movement.

At a time when the top leadership of India and Pakistan has resolved to repair bilateral ties, the security agencies on both sides have struck a discordant note by resurrecting the unfortunate practice of roughing up each other's High Commission staffers.

On Wednesday, a few miles from the Mohali stadium where the Prime Ministers of both countries were engaged in cricket diplomacy, a driver with the Pakistani High Commission in India ran foul of the Indian agencies. The Foreign Office in Islamabad kept a lid on news of the temporary “detention” of the man but went public after Pakistani agencies retaliated by picking up an Indian High Commission staffer a day later.

The hapless Indian staffer in Islamabad was released on Friday evening after Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao called up her Pakistani counterpart, Salman Bashir.

In the process, both sides breached an eight-year-old informal agreement to conform to civil norms of behaviour whenever diplomats or staff from either country are suspected to have not honoured the severe restrictions imposed on their movement. This unwritten pact was necessitated after four or five incidents of assault and retaliatory beating took place in 2003.

As per Indian sources, the Pakistan High Commission driver was “discovered'' in a prohibited area near the Chandigarh airport where a large delegation from Islamabad, led by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, had just landed to see the World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan.

The sources claimed that he attempted to escape while being detained and “in the process sustained minor bruises on his knee and back.” The staffer was questioned and released safe and sound. Before being released, the Indian authorities got him medically examined and said he was in good health.

The Pakistanis retaliated around the same time a day later by picking up an Indian High Commission staffer while he was on his way home. There was no official confirmation but the media in Pakistan reported his “detention.” The Indian High Commission in Islamabad was silent about both incidents and its officials did not respond to phone calls, seeking their views. However, Pakistani officials claimed their driver was “arrested'' for unknown reasons.

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 9:09:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Old-ghosts-come-back-to-haunt-lsquoMohali-spirit/article14666922.ece

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