NEW DELHI:An expelled Indian High Commission official left Pakistan to return to India on Friday night, Express News reported.
Declaring Surjeet Singh persona non grata, Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday gave the Indian diplomat 48 hours to leave the country.
Relations between Pakistan and India, which have already been strained by ongoing tensions, hit a new low after New Delhi and Islamabad decided to expel officials posted in each other’s diplomatic missions on charges of espionage.
It all started when New Delhi police detained a staff member of the Pakistani High Commission for questioning on charges of spying. Following which, Pakistan also decided to declare Singh as persona non grata over his activities contrary to the diplomatic norms.
But it was India that first declared Mahmood Akhtar, who was working as visa officer at the Pakistan High Commission for over two and half years, as persona non grata and asked him to leave the country within 48 hours after he was detained by New Delhi police.
Akhtar was released because of diplomatic immunity but only after prolonged questioning for obtaining alleged defence related material from two Indian nationals, who police there claimed were on his payroll.
Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup claimed that Akhtar was working for Inter-Services Intelligence. Delhi police joint commissioner Ravindra Yadav said Akhtar was detained with sensitive documents in his possession he allegedly obtained from two Indian citizens.
Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Basit was summoned to the Indian External Affairs Ministry where Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar conveyed the decision of the government of India about declaring Akhtar as persona non grata.
But Pakistan strongly contested the Indian claims and said Akhtar was lifted by the Indian authorities on ‘false and unsubstantiated charges.’ The Foreign Office said in a statement that he was, however, released in about three hours on intervention by the High Commission.
“We condemn the detention and manhandling of our diplomatic official,” FO spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said rebutting the Indian claims that he was treated well during the detention. Pakistan also strongly denounced the Indian government’s decision to expel Akhtar saying the Indian action was in violation of the Vienna Convention as well as norms of the diplomatic conduct especially in an already vitiated atmosphere.
“Pakistan High Commission has always been working within the parameters of international law and diplomatic norms,” Zakaria insisted. “This act clearly reflects Indian actions to shrink diplomatic space for the working of Pakistan High Commission.”
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