India has asked Pakistan to cut down the strength of the High Commission in Delhi by 50 per cent and has decided to do the same for the Indian mission in Islamabad. While the Indian diplomatic mission in Islamabad has constantly faced disturbing instances, the situation has worsened in the last year. India expelled two Pakistan mission staffers on May 31, who were accused of spying and trying to obtain information on the movement of Indian troops. The significant move by India in the current situation with Pakistan came after two Indian diplomats in Islamabad were kidnapped and ill-treated. Pakistan claimed that the diplomats were detained under a hit-and-run case.
Cutting down the strength of the diplomatic missions has also happened in the past between both countries in times of crisis. Perhaps one of the most significant cases in terms of espionage from the Pakistan embassy was the case of Brigadier Zaheer-ul-Islam Abbasi, the ISI-based military attaché of the Pakistan embassy in Delhi, who was caught spying red-handed and arrested in a meticulously planned operation in 1988. After spending a few hours at the Delhi Police headquarters, Brigadier Abbasi was declared persona non grata and asked to leave India within twenty-four hours. On his return to Islamabad, Brigadier Abbasi was deployed as the unit commander in Siachen. In 1995, Abbasi led a coup, along with Brigadier Mustansar Billah, against the civilian government of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the army chief General Abdul Waheed Kakar.
India-Pakistan relations are at their nadir at the moment. The revocation of Article 370 challenged the Pakistani establishment’s identity built on its decades-old phony claim on the Indian state — now Union Territory— of Jammu and Kashmir. Since the revocation, Pakistan’s frustrated leadership has been on an aggressive mission to up its ante and intensify the anti-India strategy on all possible fronts. Islamabad has displayed an irresponsible posture and has used the nuclear threat rather often and blatantly in the last one year. Pakistan-sponsored covert war has been intensified in Kashmir and the deep state’s latest asset is The Resistance Front (TRF), which accommodates Pakistan-sponsored terror groups against India under a new banner that could be projected as the group fighting for its rights in Kashmir.
Pakistan’s propaganda against India has been aggressive and it has been relentlessly pursuing all channels, including international organisations and various regional groups, like the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to muster a wider consensus to cater to its strategic objectives against India in Kashmir. With the help of its all-weather ally, China, the issue of Kashmir was raised unsuccessfully at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) repeatedly. Even while the world is fighting the deadly pandemic, and Pakistan’s own Covid-19 situation is alarming with numbers increasing and the state’s economic, social and political inability to deal with the crisis, Islamabad is putting in significant energy to try driving its point on Kashmir to the international community.
Apart from its multi-fold anti-India strategy, what is deeply disappointing is the position and statements coming from Prime Minister Imran Khan and the Foreign Affairs Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who have repeatedly been saying that India is an arrogant state, a state run on Nazi ideology; India is in danger, India is a danger to the Muslims of the world and that India has expansionist policies, etc. The latest in the series has been Imran Khan’s comment on India’s neighbours, “The Indian government, with its arrogant expansionist policies akin to Nazi’s Lebensraum (Living Space), is becoming a threat to India’s neighbours.” This is ironic for the leader of a state which has successfully managed to fuel unrest and instability on all sides of its borders. Insurgency and resistance within the country created Bangladesh. India remains an enemy number one. Afghanistan continues to hold Pakistan responsible for its instability and non-stop terror attacks in the country and Iran has always been challenged by Pakistan’s anti-Shia posture backed by the Saudi agenda.
Imran Khan seems to be competing with himself in his hate tweets against the Indian government. Although Pakistan’s obsession with India and its deep desire to compete with India is known, Imran Khan seems to be way above all the other civilian leaders of Pakistan, who did maintain some dignity and grace on the diplomatic front.
There is no diplomatic dialogue between the two countries. New Delhi took a firm position and decided to suspend talks after the Pathankot terror attack in January 2016. The attack took place after a week of the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Lahore and was a blow to the Modi government’s initiatives to stabilise the relationship between the two countries. Continuing terror attacks in Kashmir and Pakistan’s ongoing propaganda war don’t really allow any space for diplomatic interaction.
Looking at Pakistan’s unwillingness to exercise any restraint in its posturing against India, New Delhi’s decision to have a minimum presence in the respective diplomatic missions is perhaps the most logical choice.
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