Pakistan recalls envoy; it's normal, says India on diplomats harassment row

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The India-Pakistan ties witnessed a new crisis on Thursday as Pakistan called back its High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood for consultation over "harassment" of its diplomatic staff and their families in New Delhi.

India, however, has downplayed Pakistan's move as "normal and routine". External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said: "It is pretty normal for an Ambassador or a High Commissioner in any country -- for example the resident Ambassadors and High Commissioners who are in India -- to go back to their capital to hold consultations with the foreign office."

"This is pretty routine in nature," Kumar said.

Pakistan claimed that last week its Deputy High Commissioner's car was chased and his driver abused by a group of men in Delhi.

He also alleged that India had not taken measures to safeguard Pakistani diplomats and their families in New Delhi.

In response to Pakistan's allegations, Kumar said that the Indian High Commission in Pakistan was facing "a litany of issues" which have not been resolved for several months.

"We raised these issues in good faith through diplomatic channels and not through the media.We have asked for an immediate resolution of these issues faced by our High Commission in Islamabad so that the safety and security of the diplomatic mission and our diplomatic and consular officials are assured," Kumar added.

The relations between India and Pakistan hang in the balance, especially after the recent barbs exchanged at the UNHCR. The recent incidents of harassment also come close on the heels of frequent ceasefire violations across the Line of Control. 

Here are the top 10 developments of the India-Pakistan diplomatic spat so far:

1. Pakistan recalls envoy: Pakistan on Thursday said it has decided to call back its High Commissioner in India Sohail Mahmood to hold consultations over "recent incidents of harassing of their diplomats".

"Our High Commissioner in New Delhi has been asked to come to Islamabad for consultations," Pakistan's Foreign Office spokesman Muhammad Faisal said.

2. India failed to take notice: Announcing call back of the High Commissioner, Faisal said that the Indian government failed to take notice of the increasing incidents of intimidation of Pakistani diplomats, their families and staffers by its intelligence agencies.

3. India downplays move: Minutes after Faisal's statement, Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said: "It is pretty normal for an Ambassador or a High Commissioner in any country -- for example the resident Ambassadors and High Commissioners who are in India -- to go back to their capital to hold consultations with the foreign office".

4. Pak summons India's Deputy High Commissioner: On Tuesday, Pakistan summoned India's Deputy High Commissioner J P Singh over the alleged harassment of officials and families of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi. 

A statement released by the Office of Spokesperson of Pakistan Foreign Affairs Ministry said Singh was summoned by Director General (South Asia & SAARC) Mohammad Faisal 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".

5. ISI raids Indian residential complex, power and water supply cut off: The under-construction Indian residential complex in Islamabad was allegedly raided by Pakistan’s ISI that disconnected power and water supply, according to sources. Further, the Pakistan government delayed providing clearance for the complex, forcing Indian diplomats to compromise on their safety and security, the sources added.

"Despite the Foreign Secretary's assurance, the power supply was not restored for over two weeks. The Pakistan High Commission faces no such disruptions (in India)," sources said, according to news agency PTI. Indian diplomats have often complained about unauthorised entry into their premises.

6. ‘Harassment the new normal’: Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria had earlier alleged that his car was interrupted in the middle of the road to prevent him from attending a lunch hosted by Bohra community in Karachi. "Harassment is the new normal for Indian High Commission personnel in Islamabad. The High Commissioner's car was recently stopped by Pakistani agencies in the middle of a busy road to prevent him from attending an event," a source told PTI.

7. Pakistan Deputy High Commissioner’s cars followed for 20 mins: Pakistan Deputy High Commissioner's cars, on March 8, were followed during the wee hours while his children were being dropped off to British School in New Delhi’s Chanakyapuri, reported The Indian Express. The commissioner was not inside the car.

According to the report, the cars were followed for almost 20 minutes, starting from the commissioner’s residence to the school. They were “continuously obstructed and harassed” and after the children were dropped off, the driver, who was forced to get off the vehicle was told that this was in retaliation to the Indian diplomat’s harassment in Pakistan, the report added.

8. Pakistan threatens to pull out diplomats: Pakistan issued a demarche to Indian High Commission in Islamabad and to MEA in New Delhi accusing India of harassing its diplomats and their families in the country and threatened to pull out the families if the intimidation did not stop, reported Pakistani newspaper Dawn. Indian officials are yet to verify the same.

These “uncivilised” actions by the Indian government have been as “deliberate” by Pakistan diplomats, reported Pakistan Pakisan Today. 

9. Indian official’s house invaded, laptop stolen: In one of the cases that showed poor security of Indian officials in Pakistan, an official’s home was broken into and his laptop was stolen, according to sources.

“The Indian High Commission in Pakistan has been facing tremendous harassment for long, particularly in the last year," the source added, according to news agency ANI.

10. Indian diplomats receive obscene calls and messages: Pakistan’s agency personnel have reportedly been shooting videos of Indian officers, flashing their mobile phones on their faces. Not just that, obscene phone calls and messages are constantly being sent to them.

“Aggressive surveillance, violation of physical space and tailing of officers in close and dangerous proximity is a perennial issue,” the sources said, reported PTI. “In view of such an atmosphere of intimidation, most families have returned to India and children have been withdrawn from schools.”


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