New Delhi: India on Sunday accused two Pakistan high commission officials of spying, and gave them one day to leave the country.
“Two officials of the High Commission of Pakistan in New Delhi were apprehended today by Indian law enforcement authorities for indulging in espionage activities,” said a press release issued by Ministry of External Affairs.
The communique did not reveal any names. However, official sources identified the two as Abid Hussain and Mohammed Tahir, working in the consular section of the high commission in New Delhi.
They were apparently arrested by the police while obtaining Indian security establishment documents from an Indian national and handing him money and an iPhone, the sources stated.
The duo claimed that they were Indian nationals and allegedly even produced fake Aadhar cards. “Later, during interrogation, they confessed that they were officials at Pakistan High Commission and worked for ISI,” said the sources.
The MEA further stated that the Indian government had declared both officials as “persona non grata for indulging in activities incompatible with their status as members of a diplomatic mission and asked them to leave the country within twenty-four hours”.
The Pakistan charge d’affaires was issued a demarche with a “strong protest” that the “activities of these officials of the High Commission of Pakistan were against India’s national security”, added the press note.
As the high commissions of both countries are not headed by ambassadors since last year, the embassies have been supervised by deputy high commissioners, as chief of mission.
“Pakistan’s Cd’A was asked to ensure that no member of its diplomatic mission should indulge in activities inimical to India or behave in a manner incompatible with their diplomatic status,” said the press release.
The expulsion of diplomats has been a frequent occurrence in India and Pakistan’s fractious history. It is expected that Pakistan will also announce a tit-for-tat expulsion of a similar number of Indian diplomats in the coming days.
The last time there was been a decimation in staff strength at the Indian and Pakistani missions in each other’s countries was in late 2016.
Matters began with the arrest and expulsion of Pakistani high commission official Mehmood Akhtar. Just as in the latest incident, he had apparently posed as an Indian and produced a fake Aadhar card upon being apprehended after being observed receiving a document related to India’s national security at Delhi Zoo.
After Akhtar was expelled, Pakistan expelled an Indian high commission official, Surjeet Singh, within a few hours on the same day.
A couple of days later, Pakistan withdrew six of its diplomats who were named in Indian media reports that apparently quoted from Akhtar’s testimony during his interrogation.
Thereafter, the Pakistani media published reports containing the names and photographs of Indian high commission officials who they claimed were intelligence officials working under diplomatic cover. India had to withdraw eight diplomats from its high commission.
The Pakistan foreign office responded within an hour, claiming that the two staff members were “lifted by the Indian authorities today (May 31, 2020) on false and unsubstantiated charges”.
“They were, however, released on intervention by the high commission. We condemn the detention and torture as well as threatening and pressuring of the diplomatic officials to accept false charges,” said the statement of the Pakistani foreign ministry.