India expels 2 Pak officials for involvement in spying, to leave country in 24 hrs
India on Sunday expelled two officials of the Pakistan high commission after they were apprehended by law enforcement authorities on charges of engaging in espionage, the external affairs ministry said.
Officials of the special cell of Delhi Police, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said three officials of the Pakistani mission were detained at Bikanervala Chowk in Karol Bagh at 10.45 am on Sunday while allegedly trying to obtain classified materials on the Indian security establishment.
The three men – identified as Abid Hussain Abid, 42, an assistant in the Pakistani mission, Mohammad Tahir Khan, 44, a clerk, and Javed Hussain, 36, a driver – had been under surveillance for the past few months, the officials said.
“They were caught red-handed while obtaining documents on the Indian security establishment from an Indian national and handing over cash and an iPhone to him,” said one of the officials cited above.
The three men initially claimed they were Indians and even produced fake Aadhar cards, the officials said. “Later, during interrogation, they confessed they were officials at the Pakistan high commission and worked for the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI),” a second official said.
A case was registered against them under the Official Secrets Act, the officials said. The detentions were the result of an operation jointly mounted by Delhi Police and Military Intelligence, they added.
Subsequently, the government ordered the expulsion of Abid and Khan, who both work for the visa section at the Pakistani mission. Abid had been posted in the mission since December 2018, while Khan was posted here in October 2015.
A statement issued by the external affairs ministry, without naming the detained men, said: “Two officials of the high commission of Pakistan in New Delhi were apprehended today [Sunday] by Indian law enforcement authorities for indulging in espionage activities.”
The government declared both these officials “persona non grata for indulging in activities incompatible with their status as members of a diplomatic mission and asked them to leave the country within twenty-four hours”, the statement said.
Pakistan’s charge d’affaires was issued a demarche or formal diplomatic representation, in which a strong protest was lodged about the “activities of these officials of the high commission of Pakistan against India’s national security”.
The charge d’affaires “was asked to ensure that no member of its diplomatic mission should indulge in activities inimical to India or behave in a manner incompatible with their diplomatic status”, the statement said.
There was no response from the spokesman of the Pakistani mission despite attempts to reach him on phone.
The development comes at a time when ties between India and Pakistan are at an all-time low. In October 2016, India had expelled an official of the Pakistani mission after he too was nabbed by Indian security agencies while receiving classified documents.
The Pakistan Foreign Office’s statement, while condemning the Indian government’s decision to declare the two officials persona non grata, claimed the Indian action was accompanied by a “negative pre-planned and orchestrated media campaign”. It said the officials were detained by Indian authorities on “false and unsubstantiated charges” and released on the intervention of the high commission.
The statement also condemned what it said was the “threatening and pressuring of the diplomatic officials to accept false charges”. It said the Indian action was a violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the norms of diplomatic conduct “especially in an already vitiated atmosphere”.
Pakistan also sought to portray the incident as an attempt to divert attention from internal and external issues within India and the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.