In a Tit-for Tat Move, Pakistan Asks India to Reduce Diplomatic Staff by Half

Pakistan has asked India to reduce 50 percent of its personnel in Islamabad, a day after India said it intended to expel half the staff in Pakistan’s embassy in New Delhi over “spying by officials” there, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Wednesday.

“If Pakistani staff returns home, Indian staff will also go back,” Qureshi said in a statement, adding that Islamabad would fully respond to New Delhi’s “baseless” claims against Pakistani diplomats which were in clear violation of the 1980 Vienna Convention.

“Indian allegations against the staff of Pakistani High Commission are baseless. India is trying to find excuses to carry out false flag operations in Pakistan and trying to cover its embarrassment at the hands of China,” he said, referring in part to the recent battle between India and China along the Ladakh border.

In a sign of mounting tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, India on Tuesday said it would expel half of the Pakistan embassy staff in New Delhi, on charges of “espionage” and “terrorism”, within seven days.
The latest development comes a few days after India accused Pakistan of “kidnapping” and “barbaric” treatment of two of its embassy personnel in Islamabad.

“These officials who have returned to India on 22 June 2020 have provided graphic details of the barbaric treatment that they experienced at the hands of Pakistani agencies,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement on Tuesday.

As a reciprocal measure, Pakistan’s Foreign Office summoned the Indian chargé d’affaires, asking him to reduce the size of the Indian High Com­mission by 50 percent within seven days as well.

Defense and security expert, retired Lt. Gen. Talat Masood said India is acting aggressively against Pakistan to cover up its “humiliation” following its clash with Beijing and Nepal.

“India is going through severe problems both internally, due to a bad economy, and externally due to renewed conflicts with China and Nepal. Indian humiliation by China at Ladakh has really tarnished its image in South Asia as well as worldwide,” he told Arab News, adding that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government was “on the defensive” and “under pressure.”

“India is acting like a bully toward Pakistan to cover up its weaknesses against China and trying to satisfy its internal public. Pakistan has to remain prepared for any Indian adventure both militarily and politically,” he said.

Meanwhile, former Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua said diplomacy was “critical” for any positive thing to happen and downgrading diplomatic relations “would not help India at all.”

“India is, unfortunately, acting like a spoilt child in the region. It (India) is the one which has been creating problems for Pakistan at its borders as well as in the region,” she told Arab News.

“Pakistan is ready to defend its national integrity and sovereignty as it has been doing in the past. It cannot be cowed down by Indian threats,” Janjua added.

With the expulsion of 50 percent of the staff, only 55 personnel will remain at the Pakistani embassy in New Delhi.
India had resorted to a similar action after the terror attack on the Indian parliament in 2001.

“The behavior of Pakistan and its officials is not in conformity with the Vienna Convention and bilateral agreements on the treatment of diplomatic and consular officials. On the contrary, it is an intrinsic element of a larger policy of supporting cross-border violence and terrorism,” the MEA statement said.

Relations between the two nuclear-armed South Asia neighbors have been strained for a while with the embassies in both New Delhi and Islamabad operating without a High Commissioner for the past one year.

Both the nations were on the brink of a military escalation after a suicide attack on a paramilitary convoy in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district in February, and New Delhi’s abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in August last year, following which Islamabad sent India’s high commissioner back to Delhi and recalled its envoy from India.

The developments further widened the gap between the two countries, leading to a suspension of trade, reduction of visa services and cancelation of overflight rights.

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