LAHORE: Six diplomats and their families were among 38 staff members of the Indian High Commission who left for their country via the Wagah-Attari border on Tuesday.
Reportedly 100 Pakistani nationals, including families of diplomatic staff, would also return to Pakistan via the same route.
Earlier, Pakistan had told India to reduce its diplomatic staff’s strength by 50 per cent as a reciprocal measure after New Delhi sought to halve the staff strength at the Pakistan High Commission in the Indian capital.
A statement issued by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs had said that the decision, which would be implemented in seven days, had been conveyed to Pakistan’s Chargé d’Affaires.
According to the Indian statement, Pakistan’s Chargé d’Affaires was informed that Delhi had “repeatedly expressed concerns about the activities of officials [at the Pakistan High Commission]”.
“They have been engaged in acts of espionage and maintained dealings with terrorist organisations,” it had said, referring to the expulsion of two officials from the Pakistan High Commission on May 31.
Commenting on the recent hit-and-run in Islamabad involving two Indian High Commission officials, the statement had alleged that Pakistan had “engaged in a sustained campaign to intimidate the officials of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad from carrying on their legitimate diplomatic functions”.
In a statement issued shortly after, FO Spokesperson Aisha Farooqui had rejected the claim that Indian High Commission officials were intimidated in Islamabad.
“Pakistan completely dismisses allegations of any violation of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations by [Pakistan High Commission] officials in New Delhi and reiterates that they always function within the parameters of international law and diplomatic norms,” she had said.
“The Indian government’s smear campaign against Pakistan cannot obfuscate the illegal activities in which the Indian High Commission officials were found [to be] involved in. The statement is another effort to distort facts and deny the culpability of these Indian High Commission officials in criminal offences,” she had added.
The FO spokesperson also attributed the move to another “desperate attempt” to divert attention from Indian atrocities in occupied Kashmir.
“India would be better advised to focus on its internal and external issues, rather than creating diversions at the cost of peace and stability in South Asia,” she had said. “Pakistan has been consistently sensitising the world community that [the] irresponsible policies of the BJP government are increasingly imperilling regional peace and stability.”
The statement added that the FO had also summoned India’s Chargé d’Affaires to inform him of Pakistan’s decision to reduce staff at the Indian High Commission by 50 per cent as a “reciprocal measure” and was asked to implement the decision within seven days.
Tensions between the two countries rose after India expelled two officials of the Pakistani High Commission in Delhi on May 31 accusing them of espionage — a charge, which was immediately rejected by Pakistan as “false and unsubstantiated”.
The FO, while condemning the Indian action, had said the Indian move was “accompanied by a negative pre-planned and orchestrated media campaign, which is a part of persistent anti-Pakistan propaganda”.
On June 15, the two officials from the Indian High Commission — Dwimu Brahma and Selvadas Paul — were briefly detained and booked by police after their speeding vehicle crashed into a pedestrian in the capital on June 15, triggering a diplomatic spat between New Delhi and Islamabad.
Indian media, quoting a statement by the Indian government, had reported that the staffers were “forcibly abducted […] kept in illegal custody for more than 10 hours”.
Rejecting the claims, the FO called the statement a “reprehensible attempt to distort facts and deny culpability”.
“The BJP government must realise that its irresponsible policies and unilateral actions are increasingly imperiling peace and security in the region. India must act responsibly in the interest of regional peace and stability,” the FO spokesperson had said.