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Pakistan says its envoy won’t return to India till issues are resolved

Islamabad has also decided not to send commerce minister Pervaiz Malik to a World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting being hosted by New Delhi on March 19-20.

india Updated: Mar 17, 2018 22:14 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Islamabad, Hindustan Times
An Indian Border Security Force soldier carries the national flag as he and others take part in the daily beating of the retreat ceremony at the India-Pakistan Wagah Border Post near Amritsar, on December 24, 2017.
An Indian Border Security Force soldier carries the national flag as he and others take part in the daily beating of the retreat ceremony at the India-Pakistan Wagah Border Post near Amritsar, on December 24, 2017.(AFP)

Pakistan’s envoy to India, who was called back to Islamabad for consultations over the alleged harassment of its diplomats and their families in New Delhi, is unlikely to return to his posting until the situation improves, officials in Islamabad said on Saturday.

Islamabad has also decided not to send commerce minister Pervaiz Malik to a World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting being hosted by New Delhi on March 19-20, the officials said. The decision to boycott the meeting was taken at the “highest level,” The Express Tribune newspaper reported, citing an official it didn’t name .

Pakistan high commissioner Sohail Mahmood was called back for consultations on bilateral relations on Thursday because of “non-stop harassment of families of the diplomats”, foreign office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said. Officials here said Mahmood, who arrived on Friday evening, was not expected to return until the situation improves.

“Our high commissioner will not return to India anytime soon,” the Tribune cited the foreign ministry official as saying. This is the first time since 2002 that Pakistan has called backed its envoy from New Delhi in this fashion.

Over the past week, India and Pakistan have repeatedly traded accusations of harassment and ill-treatment of their diplomats in each other’s capitals. India has handed over 11 notes verbale or semi-formal diplomatic communications, detailing the harassment of its diplomats and their families in Islamabad, since January 1.

India has also complained about the blocking of official websites, which have affected the issuance of visas, lewd calls made to the homes of embassy officials, and aggressive tailing of the vehicles of its diplomats.

Pakistan has complained about more than 25 instances of its diplomats and their families being harassed in New Delhi. India has said it is making all efforts to provide a “safe and secure environment” for the Pakistan diplomats, but it also wants Pakistan to resolve the problems being faced by Indian officials.

Although it was initially thought high commissioner Mahmood would return to New Delhi after briefing the Pakistan foreign office about the situation, officials said several options were currently being considered. Pakistan could declare New Delhi a “non-family” posting or Mahmood could be asked not to return for an “indefinite period,” they said.

The diplomatic spat erupted just as the two sides announced they had agreed on the release of women, mentally challenged and elderly prisoners. Pakistan had also accepted India’s invitation to attend the informal WTO ministerial meeting to discuss an open and inclusive trading system.

Pakistan’s commerce minister Malik, had been expected to meet his Indian counterpart Suresh Prabhu, but Islamabad decided to boycott the meeting following the row over the harassment of diplomats. “We cannot send our commerce minister to India in the current situation and India has been informed about it,” PTI cited an unidentified official as saying.

The Tribune also reported that 500 Pakistanis were not granted visas by the Indian mission for travelling to India on March 18 to attend the annual Urs of Sufi saint Hazrat Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer. The report said this was the second time this year that India had denied visas to Pakistani pilgrims.