Reduce High Commission staff by 50%: India tells PakistanLast updated on Jun 25, 2020, 01:31 am
Already at loggerheads with Pakistan for several years, India on Tuesday decided to reduce the presence of the neighboring country's staff at the High Commission in New Delhi.
India has asked Pakistan to cut its staff by 50% within seven days. New Delhi will also truncate its own staff in Islamabad by the same proportion.
The last time a similar exercise happened was in 2001.
After Parliament attack, MEA downgraded ties with Pakistan
The decision to downgrade ties with Pakistan in 2001, came after the terrorist attack on the Parliament. The then External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh gave Pakistan 48 hours to reduce its staff strength.
MEA's latest decision comes weeks after two Pakistani staff members were expelled on charges of espionage.
In a tit-for-tat reaction, Pakistan's security agencies picked up two Indian High Commission officials.
India told Charge d' Affaires about behavior of Pakistani officials
Yesterday, Pakistan's Charge d' Affaires Syed Haider Shah was summoned by MEA and informed about India's concerns pertaining to the behavior of his officials.
He was told that Pakistan intimidates Indian officials and keeps a tab on their movements.
MEA said the two Indian officials, who were abducted earlier and returned on Monday, divulged worrisome details about the barbaric treatment unleashed on them.
For nearly 12 hours, Pakistani agencies tortured Indian officials
Two people aware of the abduction and the torture which followed told HT that Indian staffers were picked up by 15-16 armed men. They were blindfolded, handcuffed, and remained in the agencies' custody for nearly 12 hours.
Their captors thrashed them with rods, wooden sticks, and made them drink filthy water.
The officials were interrogated about the workings of the High Commission and threatened.
The officials had injury marks all over their bodies
The officials were capable of walking but had injury marks on the neck, face, and thighs. They were forced to sign confessions.
"The abductors, who we believe were from Pakistan's ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), repeatedly told them this is the treatment that would be meted out to other mission officials as well in future," a source told HT.
This incident infuriated New Delhi.
Last year, Pakistan was "upset" after India revoked Article 370
In August 2019, when Centre revoked Article 370, which bestowed a special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan was rattled, despite this being India's internal matter.
It downgraded bilateral ties and India too did the same by recalling its High Commissioner.
As per the understanding, both High Commissions have about 110 employees, which will now become 55.
The modalities will be figured out soon.
Pakistani officials have engaged in espionage: MEA
Announcing the decision, MEA said, "They (Pakistani officials) have been engaged in acts of espionage and maintained dealings with terrorist organizations. The activities of the two officials caught red-handed and expelled on May 31, 2020, was one example in that regard."
The statement also referred to the torture of Indian officials.
Reports said Indian officials have hardly been able to step out, fearing abduction.
MEA said Pakistan is not abiding by Vienna Convention
"The behavior of Pakistan and its officials is not in conformity with 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," MEA added.
Pakistan rubbished all allegations, put the blame on MEA
In response, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said the country hasn't violated the Vienna Convention, nor does it intimidate Indian officials.
"The Indian Government's smear campaign against Pakistan cannot obfuscate illegal activities in which the Indian High Commission officials were found involved in. The MEA's statement is another effort to distort facts and deny culpability of these Indian High Commission officials in criminal offenses," Pakistan added.
Indo-Pak ties worsened after last year's Pulwama attack
The relationship between the South Asian neighbors hit a rocky patch after the 2016 Uri attack and it further nosedived last year when Pakistan-sponsored terrorists attacked a convoy of CRPF in Pulwama, Kashmir.
Terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed's camp across the border was demolished.