Low tactics: on Indian embassy’s Iftar party in Islamabad

India has issued a public statement of protest over the harassment of guests attending an Iftar party hosted by the Indian High Commission in Islamabad on June 1. Guests were allegedly intimidated and stopped by Pakistani security force personnel from attending the event. Those who did attend reportedly had their cars towed away. Describing the action by Pakistani security forces as “against all notions of civilised behaviour”, India has asked the Pakistan government to conduct an inquiry into the incident. This development follows alleged actions by Indian security agencies in stopping guests to the Pakistan High Commission National Day function in New Delhi in March, as well as at its Iftar party on May 27. On both occasions, the Pakistan government had protested in similar terms, terming the behaviour of the security agencies towards invitees as being in “blatant disregard of traditional eastern values” and violative of the Vienna convention for diplomatic protocol. It is clear that regardless of how undignified the actions appear, both governments are following a tit-for-tat approach to ties, targeting even diplomatic missions. Last winter, for example, Pakistan authorities refused to give clearances for gas connections for heating in the Indian High Commission’s residential complex in Islamabad, despite the biting cold; while Indian authorities reportedly blocked construction workers from entering the Pakistani residential complex in New Delhi to undertake urgent repair work. Other forms of harassment that plumbed new depths included ringing the doorbells of diplomats at late hours of the night to intimidate them, and even tailing cars ferrying diplomats’ children from school.

This cycle of undiplomatic behaviour simply vitiates an atmosphere already fraught with tensions, and must end. Post-elections, the Indian Air Force has removed airspace restrictions, and Pakistan has begun to open airspace routes to and from India that it had closed after the Pulwama attack. Such positive steps need to be augmented. Earlier, Pakistan granted former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj permission to fly over its territory, and India made a similar concession to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister. India and Pakistan have extremely serious issues to resolve. The harassment of diplomats and their guests is a diversion from the issues at hand. With a new government assuming charge in India, and a possible meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation next week, it is likely that both sides will try to turn the page in bilateral ties. The new External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar, is a former diplomat himself and should reach out to his counterpart in Islamabad to raise the level of engagement above the petty point-scoring that such harassment of guests at diplomatic functions represents.


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Printable version | Jan 28, 2022 6:08:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/low-tactics/article27473296.ece

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