India asks Pakistan to reduce high commission staff by half within 7 days

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India on Tuesday asked Pakistan to reduce its staff in its high commission here by half within the next seven days and announced a reciprocal trimming of Indian strength in Islamabad, in a significant downgrading of diplomatic ties.

The Ministry of External Affairs said the Charge d’ Affaires of Pakistan High Commission was summoned and informed about the decision which was based on instances of alleged involvement of Pakistani officials in “acts of espionage” and dealings with terrorist organisations.

In a statement, the the MEA also cited the recent abduction of two Indian officials in Islamabad and the “barbaric treatment” meted out to them by Pakistani agencies as reasons for downgrading of the diplomatic ties.

“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. On the contrary, it is an intrinsic element of a larger policy of supporting cross-border violence and terrorism,” the MEA said.

Therefore, it said, India has taken the decision to reduce the staff strength in the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi by 50 per cent.

“It would reciprocally reduce its own presence in Islamabad to the same proportion. This decision, which is to be implemented in seven days, was conveyed to the Pakistani Charge d’Affaires,” it added.

The MEA said the Charge d’ Affaires of Pakistan High Commission was summoned to the ministry and informed that India had repeatedly expressed concern about the activities of officials of his High Commission.

“They have been engaged in acts of espionage and maintained dealings with terrorist organisations. The activities of the two officials caught red-handed and expelled on May 31 was one example in that regard,” it said.

It said Pakistan has engaged in a sustained campaign to “intimidate” the officials of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad from carrying on their legitimate diplomatic functions.

“The recent abduction at gunpoint of two Indian officials and their severe ill-treatment underlines the extent to which Pakistan has gone in that direction,” it said.

“These officials who have returned to India on 22 June 2020 have provided graphic details of the barbaric treatment that they experienced at the hands of Pakistani agencies,” the MEA added.

Pakistan had expelled the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad following India’s decision to withdraw special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August last year.