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India asks Pakistan to reduce high commission strength by 50%


In yet another sign of deepening tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours, India has decided to reduce the staff strength of Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi by 50 per cent.

The decision was conveyed to the Charge d’Affaires of Pakistan, who was summoned to the Ministry of External Affairs, said a statement issued by the Indian External Affairs Ministry on Tuesday.

It added that India would also reduce the staff strength of its diplomatic mission in Islamabad by the same amount.

The Indian government blamed Pakistan for further downgrading in the diplomatic ties. There has been no reaction yet from Islamabad but officials said a meeting is underway at the Foreign Office to discuss the latest development.

Pakistan had downgraded diplomatic ties in August last year when it pulled out its High Commissioner and ordered the expulsion of the Indian envoy after New Delhi revoked the special status of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K).

On May 31, India declared two staffers of the Pakistani mission persona non grata after accusing them of espionage. Both were expelled later. However, Pakistan strongly dismissed Indian claims and instead accused New Delhi for violating the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.

Recently, India withdrew two of its staff members, who were briefly detained by Islamabad police in a “hit-and-run” accident. Both officials returned to New Delhi on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Modi government claimed that officials of Pakistani mission in New Delhi had engaged in “acts of espionage and maintained dealings with terrorist organisations”.

“The activities of the two officials caught red-handed and expelled on 31 May 2020 was one example in that regard,” the Indian external affairs ministry alleged.

“While their officials indulged in actions that are not in conformity with their privileged status in the High Commission, Pakistan has in parallel engaged in a sustained campaign to intimidate the officials of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad from carrying on their legitimate diplomatic functions,” the statement further blamed Pakistan.

Contrary to Pakistan version, the Indian government claimed two officials were not involved in hit-and-run case but were abducted at gunpoint. “Their severe ill treatment underlines the extent to which Pakistan has gone in that direction,” the Indian handout claimed.