Pakistan had issued a note verbale recently to India on the matter, while India had issued a note verbale to Pakistan on Saturday.
New Delhi/Islamabad: With the India-Pakistan row over the harassment of diplomats worsening, Pakistan on Thursday recalled its high commissioner to India, Sohail Mahmood, to Islamabad for consultations, but an unfazed India said it was “pretty normal” for diplomats to go back to their countries for “consultations”. Pakistan had issued a note verbale recently to India on the matter, while India had issued a note verbale to Pakistan on Saturday. There are indications that New Delhi may also call its high commissioner home for consultations “if and when required”.
The external affairs ministry refused to discuss the incidents that led to the row, saying these will be taken up with Pakistan through “established diplomatic channels” and not through the media, but added that the Pakistani complaints were being “looked into”. New Delhi, however, did say that the Indian high commission in Islamabad was facing “a litany of issues which have not been resolved for several months”. Both sides have alleged that their diplomats have been harassed in the other country, with Islamabad also saying the children of their diplomatic staff have also been traumatised after vehicles ferrying them to school were stopped. Pakistani diplomatic sources that claim doorbells are being rung and phone calls being received by their diplomats at odd hours. On Thursday, the Pakistan foreign ministry said: “Pakistan’s high commissioner to India Sohail Mahmood would be visiting Islamabad shortly for consultations on matters relating to Pakistan-India relations.”
Asked about this, MEA spokesman Raveesh Kumar said: “It is pretty normal and routine for any country to call its envoy for consultations.” He added: “Consultations by any resident ambassador/high commissioner with their headquarters is a matter for that country. We of course have no comments to offer on the news reports regarding the Pakistan high commissioner.”
Asked whether India had plans to call its envoy too for consultations, the MEA spokesman said he was not aware of any such plan, but that it could be done “as and when required”, adding quickly, however, that there was no linkage to the diplomat harassment row.
Asked about the details in the reported incidents of harassment, the MEA said: “We have seen reports of the issues raised by Pakistan. We do not wish to respond to these issues through the media but through established diplomatic channels. What I can say is that we are looking into these issues.”
The MEA added: “As you know, our high commission is facing a litany of issues which have not been resolved for several months. We raise these issues in good faith through diplomatic channels and not through the media. We have asked for immediate resolution of these issues faced by our high commission in Islamabad, so that the safety and security of our diplomatic mission and its diplomatic and consular officials is assured. We would like our mission to function normally, without any obstruction or harassment, in keeping with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961.”
The Pakistan foreign ministry, meanwhile, lashed out at India over the row, saying: “The deliberate bullying is not confined to a single isolated event, but continues unabated in a series of incidents... Pakistan can go to any limit for the safeguarding of its diplomats.”
The huge diplomatic spat pertaining to “harassment” of diplomats and their families had hit the headlines earlier this week, with both sides lodging protests on the matter with each other. Indian government sources had said that “harassment is the new normal for Indian high commission personnel in Islamabad” for the past year or more, with the Indian high commissioner lodging a strong protest nearly a month ago on February 16 with Islamabad “against multiple acts of hooliganism against Indian properties and personnel”. Sources said that “in view of such an atmosphere of intimidation, most families have returned to India and children have been withdrawn from schools”.
Sources had said: “India’s residential complex in Islamabad was raided by Pakistan agencies who expelled all Pakistani service providers and later disconnected power and water supply”, and that “despite
the (Pakistani) foreign secretary’s assurance, the power supply was not restored for over two weeks”.
Indian government sources also said Pakistani security agencies are resorting to “aggressive surveillance, violation of physical space and tailing of officers in close and dangerous proximity”. Indian government sources also said the car of India’s high commissioner was stopped recently in a busy road to prevent him from attending an event while another Indian diplomat’s house was broken into and a laptop stolen.
Pakistan foreign ministry sources also alleged that the harassment of Pakistani diplomats in New Delhi, after which a “note verbale” was issued to India. Pakistani sources said that in one incident on Thursday, the children of Pakistan’s deputy high commissioner were going to school in a car when it was “chased by a motorcycle and another vehicle”, after which unidentified men took the driver off and hurled abuses.
Indian government sources said the Pakistani complaints would be “investigated”, adding that while New Delhi “makes all efforts to provide a safe, secure and hospitable environment for diplomats to work in”, that “this cannot be said of Islamabad, unfortunately”.