ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Tuesday “completely dismissed” allegations made by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs that its staff in New Delhi had violated any diplomatic conventions, saying they were used as “a pretext to seek 50% reduction in the staff strength” at the embassy.
“Pakistan categorically rejects and strongly condemns the baseless allegations made by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs as a pretext to seek 50% reduction in the staff strength of the High Commission for Pakistan in New Delhi,” read a statement by the Foreign Office.
The Foreign Office said it reiterates that the staff “always function within the parametres of international law and diplomatic norms”.
It also rejected insinuations that Indian High Commission officials in Islamabad were “intimidated”.
“The Indian government’s smear campaign against Pakistan cannot obfuscate the illegal activities in which the Indian High Commission officials were found involved in,” the Foreign Office said.
Censuring the MEA over its statement, it said that it was another effort to “distort facts and deny the culpability of these Indian High Commission officials in criminal offences”.
The Foreign Office reiterated that the latest action was a part India’s “desperate attempts to divert attention from its state-terrorism” and human rights violations in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
The Foreign Office advised India to focus on its internal and external issues, rather than creating diversions at the cost of peace and stability in South Asia.
“Pakistan has been consistently sensitising the world community that irresponsible policies of the BJP government are increasingly imperilling regional peace and stability,” read the statement.
Indian diplomat summoned
According to the statement, the Indian Chargé d’ Affaires in Islamabad was summoned to the Foreign Office to convey “Pakistan’s rejection and condemnation of the baseless Indian allegations”.
“The Indian Chargé d’ Affaires was also informed of Pakistan’s decision to reduce the Indian High Commission’s staff strength by 50% as a reciprocal measure. The Chargé d’ Affaires was asked to implement the decision conveyed to him within seven days,” the statement added.
Pakistan asked to cut embassy staff by half
Earlier in the day, India had told Pakistan to slash its embassy staff in New Delhi by half — saying it would do the same in Islamabad.
“The behaviour of Pakistan and its officials is not in conformity with the Vienna Convention and bilateral agreements on the treatment of diplomatic and consular officials,” the Indian MEA said in a statement.
“Therefore, the government of India has taken the decision to reduce the staff strength in the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi by 50 percent.”
Pakistani embassy officials expelled
The fractious relationship between India and Pakistan has worsened since New Delhi expelled two Pakistan embassy officials over spying allegations in late May.
Pakistan condemned the Indian government’s decision as part of a “persistent anti-Pakistan propaganda”.
According to a Foreign Office statement, India’s decision to declare two officials of the High Commission for Pakistan in New Delhi “persona non grata requiring them to leave India within 24 hours” was accompanied by a “negative pre-planned and orchestrated media campaign, which is a part of persistent anti-Pakistan propaganda”.
It added that two staff members of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi were “lifted by the Indian authorities today (31 May 2020) on false and unsubstantiated charges”.
Following the incident, New Delhi accused Islamabad of torturing two Indian diplomats arrested in a hit-and-run incident in Islamabad.
The incident occurred last week when Islamabad Police had arrested the two Indian officials for attempting to flee after running over a man and critically injuring him.
Islamabad police later said both Indian High Commission officials were released due to their diplomatic immunity and had been handed over in the presence of Pakistani ministry’s officials.
A case had earlier been filed against them in the Secretariat Police Station, with charges of negligence, reckless driving, and overspeeding.
The FIR stated that counterfeit currency worth Rs10,000 was also recovered from the Indian diplomats.