External Affairs

Pakistan High Commissioner “Strongly Protests” Detention of Staffer for Espionage

Abdul Basit, Pakistan's high commissioner to India. Credit: PTI

Abdul Basit, Pakistan’s high commissioner to India. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: India has expelled a Pakistan high commission staff member after he was arrested by the Delhi police for being in possession of defence-related documents. Mehmood Akhtar was arrested by the Delhi police crime branch on Wednesday following an intelligence input.

Information about Akhtar’s arrest was conveyed by Indian foreign secretary S. Jaishankar to Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Basit on Thursday morning. Basit was told that a Pakistani embassy staff member was now ‘persona non grata’, which means that he had to leave Indian territory as soon as possible.

According to diplomatic sources, Basit “strongly protested” the “detention and manhandling” of Akhtar and said it was in violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention.

Basit apparently asked the Indian government to ensure that such harassment does not happen in the future. He also denied the accusation and apparently told Jaishankar that the Pakistan high commission “never engages in any activity that is incompatible with its diplomatic status”.

South Block is also bracing for Pakistan to likely declare an Indian high commission official as persona non grata in a reciprocal gesture. This would be another notch in the race to the bottom in the current strained relations between the two South Asian neighbours following the terror attack on the Indian army headquarters in Uri.

According to PTI, the police also arrested two others, both residents of Rajasthan, for allegedly passing on sensitive information to Akhtar.

“The spies are residents of Rajasthan working for Pakistan’s ISI. The spies were in touch with the staff here at Pakistan High Commission and were providing sensitive information,” a senior police officer said.

The arrested men have been identified as Maulana Ramzan and Subhash Jangir.