Byline: Baqir Sajjad Syed
ISLAMABAD -- In a sign of escalating tensions between Pakistan and India, Delhi on Tuesday asked Islamabad to cut the size of its diplomatic staff in India by half within seven days after accusing its High Commission (HC) staff of engaging in espionage.
India said it too would halve its diplomatic presence in Islamabad, in view of the principle of reciprocity in diplomatic ties.
The decision on reducing Pakistan's diplomatic footprint in India was conveyed by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs to Pakistani charge d'affaires in Delhi Haider Shah.
The Indian ministry in a statement said: 'Government of India has taken the decision to reduce the staff strength in the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi by 50pc. It would reciprocally reduce its own presence in Islamabad to the same proportion.'
It further said the reduction of staff is to be implemented in seven days.
Pakistan's Foreign Office later also summoned the Indian charge d' affaires, asking him to reduce the size of Indian High ComAmission staff by 50 per cent in seven days.
Islamabad and Delhi to halve strength of high commissions
'The Indian Charge d' Affaires was informed of Pakistan's decision to reduce the Indian High Commission's staff strength by 50pc as a reciprocal measure. The Charge d' Affaires was asked to implement the decision conveyed to him within seven days,' the FO said.
Pakistan had last August sent back the Indian high commissioner after Delhi illegally annexed Occupied Kashmir and recalled its own envoy from India.
The perpetually tense ties between the arch-rival neighbours have gone from one low to another since then without any sign of recovery.
It wasn't clear from the Indian ministry's media statement and the subsequent FO note if the reduction was to be implemented on the ceiling agreed by both countries for their high commissions in respective capitals, which is 106, or it was to be applied to the current strength of the missions.
Pakistan is currently having 83 officers and staffers in Delhi, while the number of personnel posted at Indian High Commission is around 100.
The Indian move appeared to be aimed at diverting the attention of its public from the situation in Ladakh, where its troops suffered heavy casualties in the first violent clash at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with Chinese forces since 1975.
Domestic pressure has been growing on the Indian government over what is being seen in India as a...