New Delhi: Pakistan has rejected India’s nomination for the post of deputy high commissioner, who is the de-facto head of the Indian mission in Islamabad.
A Times of India report said on Sunday that India had proposed Indian foreign service officer Jayant Khobragade in June this year to replace the incumbent, Gaurav Ahluwalia, in Islamabad.
India’s deputy high commissioner has been the Charge d’Affaires (CDA) of the Indian mission in Islamabad since the high commissions in both capitals have been headless for over a year.
The Wire has also confirmed that Pakistan had conveyed its rejection of Khobragade’s nomination for the post last week.
The official reason given by Pakistan is that Khobragade, a 1995 batch IFS officer, is too senior to head a mission whose strength has been depleted by half, with nearly all bilateral engagements frozen.
“Pakistan believes that by proposing a senior diplomat, who has already served as Ambassador in another post, India is trying to circumvent the effect of downgrading of diplomatic relations, which is obviously not in line with Pakistan’s decision,” said a statement issued by the Pakistan foreign ministry spokesperson on Sunday night.
The Pakistani foreign office added that Islamabad “has counselled India to nominate an officer with seniority commensurate with Pakistan’s decision of downgrading the diplomatic relations”.
India’s decision to cut down manpower was taken in late June after the return of two Indian diplomatic officials who were taken into custody by Pakistani authorities as a reciprocal step for New Delhi’s expulsion of Pakistani diplomats for ‘espionage activities’.
India had recalled its high commissioner in Islamabad for consultations after the terrorist attack in Pulwama on Indian security agencies in February 2019. After India changed the constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state in August last year, Pakistan formally expelled the Indian high commissioner and downgraded ties.
It is extremely rare for countries to reject the appointments of diplomats.
Khobragade was earlier posted as the Indian ambassador to the Kyrgyz republic and was currently on deputation as joint secretary to the Department of Atomic Energy.
With Pakistan rejecting India’s proposal, New Delhi is likely to take a similar step when Islamabad proposes a replacement for its outgoing deputy high commissioner in New Delhi.
The latest move comes ahead of the high-level segment of the virtual session of the United Nations General Assembly, where Indian and Pakistani leaders will give their addresses.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is again expected to raise the Kashmir issue, which is expected to lead to another round of verbal volleys in New York.