New Delhi: When the new academic session began in Islamabad in April, school-going children of Indian diplomats did not return to their schools, as most of them had already been taken out of Pakistan following an adverse security assessment the previous year.
In a report on Monday, the Pakistani newspaper Daily Times said that high commission of India (HCI) had “recently” taken a decision to remove the 60-odd children of Indian diplomatic staff from their schools in Islamabad from the next quarter of the current academic session.
Official sources in New Delhi expressed surprise at the report since the decision to pull them out was formally taken by the external affairs ministry in June 2015 “to permit sufficient time for affected staff members to make alternative arrangements for the continuing education of their wards”.
There are no school-going children of Indian high commission officials studying in Pakistan during the current academic session which began in April, sources added.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup noted that it was “normal practice for all countries to review staffing and related policies for their diplomatic missions, including in view of prevailing circumstances at those stations”.
“With effect from this academic session, officials posted in the High Commission of India in Islamabad have been advised to make arrangements for education of their wards outside Pakistan, till further notice,” he said.
The decision may have been announced publicly now – presumably following the Daily Times story – but Indian officials said it had no connection to the recent war of words between India and Pakistan following the upsurge of violence in Kashmir.
The Indian high commission in the Pakistani capital was one of the few foreign missions where diplomats still brought along their families.
The majority of the foreign embassies in Islamabad and other Pakistani cities are treated by their respective governments as non-family postings for security reasons.
The “no kids policy” is followed by the embassies of Germany, France, Australia, UN organisations, United States, Canada, among others. United Kingdom does not allow children of diplomats below twelve years of age. “So our approach is in consonance with the policy adopted by several nations,” sources said.
A high-placed source confirmed to The Wire that security considerations based on the targeting of schools and colleges by terrorists was one of the factors which led many missions to minimise the presence of families..
The Indian school children were withdrawn in phases “as and when possible” by their parents and admitted in schools in India over the last academic session.
Indian officials say there is no reason to expect Pakistan to instruct its diplomats to withdraw their children from schools in New Delhi. Given the comfortable security situation in the national capital, most foreign diplomats, including Pakistanis, bring their families here when posted and there are many schools which cater to their children.