India, Pakistan accuse each other of harassing diplomats

Pakistani Rangers (black uniforms) and Indian Border Security Force personnel (brown uniforms) take part in the daily beating of the retreat ceremony at the India-Pakistan Wagah Border Post, on Dec 24, 2017.
Pakistani Rangers (black uniforms) and Indian Border Security Force personnel (brown uniforms) take part in the daily beating of the retreat ceremony at the India-Pakistan Wagah Border Post, on Dec 24, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

Latest row shows how much their ties have worsened: Experts

India and Pakistan have traded charges of harassment of their diplomatic staff in Delhi and Islamabad as ties between the nuclear-armed rivals hit a new low.

Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs called back its High Commissioner to India for consultations yesterday on the alleged harassment of Pakistani diplomats.

Islamabad has listed around half a dozen specific instances of alleged harassment of diplomatic staff and their families, including children being threatened, over the past eight days, while New Delhi said its diplomats had been routinely harassed over the past eight months.

The Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs said unknown people followed a car on Tuesday carrying the children of a senior diplomat as they were returning from school, and took videos and photographs.

Last Friday, the car of the Pakistani naval adviser was "aggressively chased", said Pakistan.

"This deliberate bullying is not confined to a single isolated event, but continues unabated in a series of incidents, especially targeting the children of our officers and staff," said Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Muhammad Faisal in a statement on Tuesday.

Footage subsequently released by a Pakistani diplomat shows motorcyclists following his car.

Ties between India and Pakistan, which have fought three wars and regularly exchange fire across the de facto border, have been poor.

India has sought action from Pakistan on terrorism and progress in the trial of those accused over the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks in which 166 people were killed.

Ties worsened after Indian national Kulbhashan Jadhav was convicted by a military court and given the death sentence for espionage.

India has taken Pakistan to the International Court of Justice over the conviction and accused Islamabad of mistreating Mr Jadhav.

India's Ministry of External Affairs spokesman said yesterday that the authorities were looking into the Pakistani complaints, but also noted that Indian complaints had gone unresolved for months. "We are looking into issues raised by their side," he said. "At the same time our High Commission has also been facing a litany of issues, which have not been resolved for the last eight months. We have asked for immediate resolution of issues so the safety of our diplomatic mission is assured."

Allegations of harassment of diplomats are not a new issue between the two countries. The intelligence agencies are known to keep very close track of each other's diplomats within the country. Indian diplomats need permission to travel out of Islamabad, as do Pakistani diplomats if they leave Delhi.

The countries have also expelled diplomats in recent years. In 2016 India declared Pakistan High Commission employee Mehmood Akhtar persona non grata for "anti-India activities". That resulted in tit-for-tat expulsions of five diplomats each.

Analysts said this latest row was a sign of how much ties had deteriorated between the two countries.

"There is a sense within Pakistan that they are being put in a corner," said former Indian foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh. "The US has been cutting funds. India is getting the attention of the international community. This is a symptom of deteriorating diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan.

"Harassment of diplomats is not a new thing. To make it an official issue means they want to proclaim relations are not good."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2018, with the headline 'India, Pakistan accuse each other of harassing diplomats'. Print Edition | Subscribe