September 25, 2020

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India expels two Pakistani officials on ‘espionage’ charges

India’s foreign ministry said the two officials at the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi were involved in spying activities. The move is likely to increase tension between the two nuclear-armed South Asian countries.

The Indian government has expelled two officials at the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi, accusing them of being involved in spying activities, the country’s foreign ministry said on Sunday.

“The government has declared both these officials persona non grata for indulging in activities incompatible with their status as members of a diplomatic mission,” the ministry said in a statement.

The pair had to leave the country “within 24 hours” and Pakistan’s Charge de Affaires was issued with a “strong protest” over the alleged activities of the officials, the ministry added.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry condemned the expulsion and alleged that the two were detained and tortured by Indian authorities.

“The Indian action has been accompanied by a negative pre-planned and orchestrated media campaign, which is a part of persistent anti-Pakistan propaganda,” the ministry said.

Tension over Kashmir

The move is likely to increase tensions between the two nuclear-armed South Asian countries, who have a long-running dispute over the Muslim-majority Kashmir region. Pakistan and India both rule part of the disputed Himalayan territory, but claim it in full.

Ties between Islamabad and New Delhi further deteriorated after Prime Minister Narendra Modi stripped India-administered Kashmir of its semi-autonomous status in August, last year.

Modi said the move was necessary to quell a Pakistan-sponsored Islamist insurgency in the area.

Earlier in May, Indian security forces killed Junaid Ashraf Sahrai, a Kashmiri separatist commander, and his aide in a shootout. Police said Sahrai was a militant commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, Kashmir’s largest rebel group.

On Wednesday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that any Indian aggression will receive a “befitting response” from Pakistan.

“India’s bellicosity is aimed at provoking Pakistan, but we showed patience in the past and will exercise restraint in future too,” state-run Radio Pakistan quoted Qureshi as saying.

Qureshi also claimed the Pakistani military shot down an Indian drone on Wednesday, which “was an example of India aggression.”

Espionage claims

India and Pakistan regularly level espionage charges against each other.

In July 2019, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Pakistan to review the death penalty for Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav, a former Indian navy commander. New Delhi had complained of an unfair trial and sought the ICJ’s intervention.

Pakistan arrested Jadhav in March 2016. Islamabad claims that Jadhav confessed to a Pakistani military court that he had been tasked by India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) intelligence agency to “plan, coordinate, and organize espionage/sabotage activities aiming to destabilize and wage war against Pakistan” in the southwestern province of Baluchistan and the southern port city of Karachi. New Delhi denies these allegations.

In April 2017, a military court sentenced Jadhav to death, a verdict that angered Indian authorities, who believe that if the ruling was carried out, it would substantially damage ties between the two nuclear-armed countries.

(DW)