India on Thursday termed as “routine” Pakistan calling its high commissioner home for consultations after alleging that its diplomats and their families were “harassed and intimidated”.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the Indian high commission in Islamabad was also facing a “litany of issues” which have not been resolved for several months by that country.
In latest escalation of tensions between the two countries, Pakistan on Thursday said it has decided to call home its envoy in India Sohail Mahmood for consultations after repeated incidence of “harassment” of its diplomatic staff in New Delhi.
“It is pretty normal and routine for any country to call its envoy for consultations,” Kumar said during his weekly media briefing while replying to a volley of questions on the issue.
“Frankly, I am a bit surprised as to why this question is posed to me. Consultations by any resident ambassador/high commissioner with their headquarters is a matter for that country. We of course have no comments to offer on the news reports regarding the Pakistan high commissioner,” he said.
The spokesperson said India was looking into the issues being raised by Pakistan.
He said India has also asked the Pakistan government for immediate resolution of the issues being faced by its mission in Islamabad so that the safety and security of Indian diplomatic mission and its diplomatic and consular officials are assured.
In Islamabad, the Pakistan foreign ministry claimed that the staff and their families have been facing “harassment, intimidation and outright violence” from Indian state agencies in recent weeks.
Kumar said the Indian high commission was also facing lot of issues and India has already taken them up through diplomatic channels.
“We would like our Mission to function normally, without any obstruction or harassment, in keeping with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961,” he said.
In Islamabad, Pakistan foreign office spokesman Muhammad Faisal said that the Indian government failed to take notice of the increasing incidents of intimidation of Pakistani diplomats, their families and staffers by its intelligence agencies.
“We do not wish to respond to these issues through the media but through established diplomatic channels. What I can say is that we are looking into these issues,” Kumar said.
Asked whether India was also asking its envoy in Islamabad to come to Delhi for consultations, he indicated that there was no such move.
The Pakistan foreign office spokesperson alleged that this deliberate continuing bullying was not confined to a single isolated event and “continues unabated despite repeated official protests lodged with the Indian High Commission here, and also with the India’s ministry of external affairs at the highest (level)”.
He said the Pakistan high commission shared with the external affairs ministry photographs identifying the individuals, who forcibly halted and took pictures of the officers but regrettably no positive action was taken by the Indian side so far.
Official sources said Indian mission staffers in Islamabad have been severely “harassed and intimidated” and that harassment has been a new normal for them.
They said the Indian high commissioner’s car was recently stopped by Pakistani agencies in the middle of a busy road to prevent him from attending an event.
The sources said water and power supply to residences of Indian staffers have been cut intermittently in the last few months.
The sources said India has been asking Pakistan to ensure that both high commissions are allowed to do their job in an atmosphere free of harassment and intimidation.
Photograph: Mohsin Raza/Reuters