Trust deficit between India and Pakistan has worsened in recent years in the wake of major terrorist attacks carried out by Pakistan-backed outfits on Indian soil — Pathankot and Uri (both in 2016) and Pulwama (2019). With Pakistan failing to convince India — and the international community at large — of its commitment to stamping out terrorism emanating from its territory, diplomatic ties between the two countries have become increasingly strained. India has now told Pakistan to reduce the staff in its High Commission in New Delhi by half, while deciding to slash the staff strength in its own High Commission in Islamabad. The pragmatic move follows a couple of acrimonious incidents. India had expelled two Pakistani diplomats on May 31 on the charge of espionage pertaining to the movement of Indian Army troops. A fortnight later, the Pakistani authorities detained two junior members of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad in a ‘hit and run’ case and released them after several hours. India claimed that the two staffers had been abducted and subjected to barbaric treatment. Pakistan’s action was perceived to be in retaliation for the expulsions.
Pakistan’s preoccupation with Kashmir and its support to cross-border terrorism have been fuelling diplomatic discord. Islamabad had expelled the Indian High Commissioner after India decided to withdraw special status to Jammu and Kashmir in August last year. Pakistan has denied any violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations by its officials posted at the High Commission in New Delhi, but it has not done enough to dispel doubts and inspire confidence.
Indian diplomats and consular officials are allegedly under constant surveillance in Pakistan. Their harassment and intimidation, apparently at the ISI’s behest, validates India’s zero-tolerance approach. National security must remain the benchmark for India while dealing with a hostile and unreliable neighbour like Pakistan. With over 2,000 cases of ceasefire violations by Pakistan — seen as a ruse to push militants into J&K — being reported this year till June 10, India can’t afford to let its guard down.
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