Thursday, October 27, 2016

Pakistan expel a mission staffer each within hours

The ties between India and Pakistan dipped further on Thursday when both the country expelled a staffer each at their High Commissions, declaring them ‘persona non-grata’ in tit-for-tat action after Delhi Police said it had uncovered a spy ring involving an employee of the Pakistani mission. Both staffers were given identical deadlines to leave by October 29.

Two indian have also arrested by Delhi police, a third was arrested later, and accused a Pakistan High Commission staffer, Mehmood Akhtar, of receiving “sensitive” defence documents, including details of BSF deployment on the border, from them. While Maulana Ramzan and Subhash Jangir were sent to police custody, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar called Pakistan’s High Commissioner Abdul Basit and declared Akhtar a ‘persona non grata’ for spying.

Hours after India arrested spay, in a retaliatory move, Pakistan declared Surjeet Singh, an Indian official at the High Commission in Islamabad, as ‘persona non grata’ but did not spell out any charge.

The Pakistan Foreign Ministry said Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry expressed deep concern to Indian envoy Gautam Bambawale over the activities of the Indian official that were “in violation of the Vienna Convention and established diplomatic norms”. Pakistan diplomatic sources said Singh was being expelled for “spying”.

This is the third time in the last 13 years when officials from both sides have been declared ‘persona non grata’ in tit-for-tat responses.

In February 2003, during the rule of the Vajpayee government, India and Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioners were expelled, along with four diplomats from each side, after the Pakistani diplomat was allegedly found to be funding separatists. In August 2006, Islamabad claimed an Indian official had received “sensitive” documents in Pakistan. New Delhi had responded in equal measure.

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