India, Pakistan to reduce High Commission staff by 50 percent

India will reduce staff strength in the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi by 50 percent and recall a similar number of officials from its commission in Islamabad, the External Affairs Ministry said Tuesday, amid an ongoing diplomatic row between the two nations.
The reduction is to be implemented within seven days, the ministry added.

The ministry said Pakistan’s Charge d’ Affaires had been summoned this morning and was told that India had repeatedly expressed concerns about Pakistani officials in “acts of espionage” and maintaining “dealings with terrorist organisations”.

“The behaviour of Pakistan is not in conformity with the Vienna Convention and bilateral agreements on 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 government said.

“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 added.

“They have (also) 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, 2020 was one example in that regard,” the government said.

Last week two Indian High Commission staffers, reported missing in Islamabad since 8 AM, were found late that night after a strong complaint from New Delhi.

Government sources said the two, who were drivers and suffered injuries, had been in the custody of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Pakistan said they been involved in a road accident and shared a FIR filed by the police to back their statement.

“Officials who returned to India on June 22, 2020, have provided graphic details of the barbaric treatment that they experienced at the hands of Pakistani agencies,” the government said today in reference to that incident.

Earlier this month the External Affairs Ministry said two officials of the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi were caught for carrying out espionage activities.

Sources said the two – identified as Abeed Hussain and Tahir Khan – worked in the visa section and used fake identity papers to move around. They were declared persona non grata and ordered to leave India within 24 hours.

Ties between India and Pakistan have been severely strained over the past few years and have worsened with recent incidents of firing at the border and terror strikes in Kashmir.