Situation tense, India asks Pakistan to ensure staff safety | India News


NEW DELHI: After India’s expulsion of 2 Pakistan officials accused of espionage, the situation for Indian diplomats and other staff in Islamabad remains tense and fraught with risks. With Pakistan looking to enforce reciprocity, the Indian high commission is finding it difficult to resume normal functioning, faced as Indian diplomats and consular officials are with incessant and aggressive tailing and surveillance.
India on Friday registered another protest in the form of a note verbale to Pakistan authorities. The government has conveyed to Pakistan that the behaviour of its agencies violated Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961 and also the bilateral 1992 Code of Conduct which the 2 countries signed to provide diplomats immunity from hostilities in ties.
India has asked Pakistan to ensure the safety and security of the Indian high commission and its staff and to allow them to resume their activities in keeping with the Vienna Convention. To be sure, the activities have already been curtailed by the Covid-19 threat. However, Indian officials have found it difficult to step out without in-your-face tailing, aggressive surveillance and intimidation since May 31, when the 2 Pakistan officials were held, sources familiar with the issue said.
India’s charge d’affaires Gaurav Ahluwalia himself has been subjected to aggressive tailing and intimidation.
Pakistan apparently is keen to “level the score” by expelling Indian officials on similar charges as those faced by its staff here who were declared persona non grata. The last time India expelled a Pakistan official (in 2016) for espionage, Islamabad managed to restore parity in 3 days by doing the same to an Indian official. This time though, even after 2 weeks, Pakistan has not yet been able to expel any Indian official.
India has already expressed fear that its officials in Islamabad could be detained illegally and tortured.
For Indian diplomats in Islamabad normally, as indeed their Pakistan counterparts here, tailing and surveillance are like water off a duck’s back. For India though, Pakistan seems to have crossed the line since May 31. The risk now is that the already downgraded relations could slip into the pre-March 2018 days.
Ending a wave of cases of harassment of diplomats, India and Pakistan had on March 18 mutually agreed to resolve matters related to the “treatment of diplomats and diplomatic premises” in line with the 1992 Code of Conduct for the treatment of diplomatic and consular staff in both countries. As India has said in the past, the implementation of this understanding or reaffirmation is regularly followed up through diplomatic channels.



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