India condemns Pakistan's retaliatory move to expel its diplomat, says action taken as an afterthought
Pakistan accused Surjeet Singh of activities 'that were in violation of the Vienna Convention and the established diplomatic norms' but did not elaborate.
India on Friday condemned Pakistan's move of declaring persona non grata an officer posted in its high commission in Islamabad without providing due reasons or explanations.
"Government notes with regret the government of Pakistan's decision to declare Surjeet Singh, Assistant Personnel and Welfare Officer in the High Commission of India in Islamabad, persona non grata and expel him and his family members," the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement. "No justification has been provided by the government of Pakistan except for the completely baseless and unsubstantiated allegation that his activities were not in keeping with diplomatic norms," it stated.
MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup also noted that Pakistan's action is obviously an afterthought and lacks any reasonable cause. "It is obvious that the step is an afterthought following yesterday's apprehension of Pakistan High Commission staffer Mehmood Akhtar in Delhi while indulging in anti-India activities," the External Affairs Ministry statement said.
"Pakistan's action further confirms that it continues to be in denial of its anti-India activities, including cross-border terrorism," he added.
India and Pakistan on Thursday announced they would each expel one of the other's diplomats amid growing tension between the nuclear-armed arch-foes over the disputed region of Kashmir. India said it would expel a Pakistani diplomat based in New Delhi who allegedly ran a spy ring that collected sensitive information about Indian security operations along its border.
Following this, late on Thursday night, Pakistan's foreign ministry said it had declared an Indian diplomat, Surjeet Singh, persona non grata and given him 48 hours to leave the country, which the Indian side alleged was an afterthought and merely a retaliatory move.
Police in the Indian capital said the Pakistani diplomat was detained on Wednesday outside the gates to Delhi Zoo, where he had met two Indian associates whom police believe he had recruited to spy for him. The Pakistani diplomat, who reportedly worked in Pakistan High Commission's visa section, and his alleged Indian accomplices were found with forged documents, defence-related maps, deployment charts and lists of officers working along India's border with Pakistan, Indian police said in a statement. "There was high probability that the information passed on by these anti-national elements to PIO (Pakistan intelligence operative) is being used against the national interests and could be highly detrimental for national security," they said, adding they had been trying to break the spy ring for six months.
An Indian foreign ministry spokesman said the man, who was released from custody under diplomatic immunity rules, must leave the country by Saturday.
Pakistan's High Commission in New Delhi, however, rejected the allegations, saying in a statement it "never engages in any activity that is incompatible with its diplomatic status." Later on Thursday, Pakistan's foreign ministry announced it had declared Singh persona non grata and informed the Indian High Commission he had until Saturday to leave the country.
The statement said Singh was accused of activities "that were in violation of the Vienna Convention and the established diplomatic norms" but did not elaborate. India and Pakistan have been at loggerheads since a group of Pakistani militants killed 19 soldiers in September at an army camp in Kashmir, an allegation that Pakistan denies.
India said it had sent special commandos into Pakistan-controlled Kashmir to kill militants in a retaliatory operation that sharply soured relations between the neighbours. Pakistan says the operation never happened and accuses India of inventing it to distract attention from its crackdown on protests in Kashmir.
With inputs from agencies
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