Pakistan on Thursday asked its envoy to return for “consultations” amid growing bilateral tensions over alleged harassment of its diplomats in India. Indian sources, however, indicated that Pakistan had not ensured the safety and security of Indian diplomats in Islamabad despite repeated requests.
The envoy’s visit to the Pakistani capital for “consultations” was confirmed by Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Dr. Mohammad Faisal, who reiterated at a weekly briefing that officials and staff of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi were being subjected to different kinds of harassment for the past few days. “Our High Commissioner in New Delhi has been asked to come to Islamabad for consultations. Indian Deputy High Commissioner J.P. Singh was summoned to the Foreign Office and a strong protest was lodged at the maltreatment being meted out to the officials and families of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi,” the Spokesperson said.
Indian sources, however, urged caution, emphasising that Pakistan had not withdrawn its envoy, High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood.
“Consultations by any resident Ambassador or High Commissioner with their headquarters are matters for that country. We, of course, have no comments on the Pakistan High Commissioner,” said Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.
Mr. Mahmood, in an interview with The Hindu on Wednesday, had called for “sober reflection” on the current row, before returning to the Pakistani capital.
While the consultations are not unusual, the fact that the Pakistan MFA issued a statement on calling him to Islamabad amid growing diplomatic tension, is significant.
Over 500 Pakistani nationals including officials, staffers and family members are stationed at the High Commission in New Delhi. The Indian High Commission in Islamabad, however, is a ‘non-family’ posting for diplomats. Indian sources maintained that Pakistan has remained unresponsive to their safety-related concerns.
“Over the last one year, we have repeatedly asked Pakistan to ensure safety and security of our diplomats posted in Islamabad but we did not receive satisfactory response. As a result we had to summon the Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan Syed Haidar Shah on Saturday and issue him a note verbale (diplomatic note),” said a source, explaining the latest diplomatic fight. The row has intensified after Pakistani sources issued several videos showing their diplomats being stalked by security operatives on the streets of Delhi.
Both Indian and Pakistani officials have accused each other of similar harassments.
An Indian source indicated that over the last several months, Pakistani security agencies have resorted to a series of measures like stopping local employees from reaching the mission and disrupting electricity supply that made normal life impossible. The Pakistani spokesman alleged that visitors and labourers were being stopped from going to the Pakistani mission in the Indian capital’s diplomatic enclave. As a result, the diplomats, their children and families were finding it difficult to stay in New Delhi, he claimed. Pakistan has complained to the Indian authorities, saying that it will become very difficult for its diplomats to perform their duties in New Delhi in the wake of such incidents.