Islamabad/New Delhi, October 29 (NIA): In a tat for tat diplomatic spat over the Kashmir issue, Pakistan and India have been declaring each other’s diplomats as persona-non-grata on spying charges and expelling them.
In addition, Indian police have arrested four Indian nationals allegedly involved in the spy ring run by the Pakistani mission staffer Mehmood Akhtar, who was caught receiving sensitive documents on October 26.
The Indians held are: Maulana Ramzan, Subhash Jhangi, Sohaib and Farhat, the last being a Personal Assistant to a member of the Upper House of the Indian parliament, Munabbar Saleem.
Following India’s action of expelling a Pakistani High Commission staffer Mehmood Akhtar for spying earlier in the week, the Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry summoned the Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan Gautam Bambawale to convey the decision of the Government of Pakistan to declare an Indian mission staffer, Surjeet Singh, as persona non grata.
Accordingly Surjeet Singh returned to India on Saturday with his family.
Chaudhry had expressed deep concern over the activities of the Indian official which he said were in violation of the Vienna Convention and established diplomatic norms.
Earlier, the Indian Foreign Secretary S.Jaishankar had summoned Pakistani High Commissioner in India, Abdul Basit, to inform him that a Pakistan High Commission staffer Mehmood Akhtar has been declared persona non grata for espionage.
Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit “strongly protested with the Indian Foreign Secretary the detention and manhandling of Pakistan High Commission staffer,” a spokesperson of the Pakistan High commission in Delhi said at that time.
The High Commissioner also said the detention contravened the 1961 Vienna Convention.
The expulsion of the two officials comes amidst soaring tensions between Pakistan and India in the wake of a spate of cross-border firing which has caused casualties on either sides.
The Indian prime minister stepped up a drive to isolate Pakistan diplomatically after the Uri army base attack last month.
Hours after the attack occurred, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh termed Pakistan a ‘terrorist state’. India also accused Pakistan of involvement in the attack.
The Uri attack occurred days before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was set to address the United Nations General Assembly regarding Indian human rights violations in Kashmir.
Following the attack, India claimed to have conducted a cross-border ‘surgical strike’ against ‘launch pads of terror’ in Azad Jammu and Kashmir — a claim Pakistan has strongly rejected.
Pakistan maintains that India is attempting to divert the world’s attention away from ‘atrocities’ committed by government forces in Kashmir.
Pakistan and India have locked horns over the Kashmir issue since Indian forces stepped up a crackdown against protesters after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed by government forces in July.