As India-Pak ties continue to go south, diplomats face harassment, intimidation

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These are tough days if you are a Pakistani diplomat posted in India at the moment, or vice versa. The relationship between the two countries seems to have put diplomatic ties into a deep freeze.

“There is no engagement at all,’’ said a source within the Pakistan high commission. In terms of work, there doesn’t seem much to do. The recent diplomatic spat between India and Pakistan, each accusing the other of harassing their diplomats, just goes to illustrate how the gulf is only widening.

There was a glimmer hope when the two countries agreed to exchange prisoners last week. However, this didn't help much as there have been threats of the two countries pulling their diplomats out.

Both the countries are functioning with lesser than sanctioned staff. There are about five positions vacant in the missions in both countries as India and Pakistan ousted each others' diplomats in December 2016. India had accused a Pakistani diplomat of being the kingpin of a spy network and expelled him. This started off a spate of such expelling from both the sides.

The souring of relations have spilled into club wars. The Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria’s membership to the Islamabad Club was stalled for a while. The interior ministry had to issue an NOC before he was allowed to use the club. Pakistani diplomats claim that they want membership to the Delhi Golf Club. The Delhi Gymkhana Club doesn’t have all the facilities like the Islamabad Club. There is no golf course, one diplomat pointed out.

The snobbery of clubs apart, the animosity between the two sides—especially at the diplomatic level—has been growing. And it is serious. The Indian high commission has charged Pakistan agencies of raiding its Islamabad complex, and cutting off power and water supply. “Despite the foreign secretary’s assurance, the power supply was not restored for over two weeks,’’ said a source.

There have been several strong protests lodged on both sides, detailing incidents of harassment faced by their diplomats. The Indian high commissioner lodged a strong protest with Pakistan foreign secretary against “multiple acts of hooliganism” against Indian personnel and property. There have been other incidents too, one involving the Indian high commissioner’s car by Pakistani agencies, claimed sources, to prevent him from attending an event.

Pakistan diplomats in India have also strongly protested harassment faced by them in the national capital. Four note verbale have been registered with the ministry of external affairs. In a recent case, Pakistan Deputy High Commissioner Syed Haider Shah’s car, carrying his two children, was allegedly followed and obstructed at a traffic light. The driver was allegedly forced out and threatened. Diplomats from Pakistan allege that they are routinely denied permission to travel, even as far as Gurugram.