Indo-Pak diplomatic ties under strain again as harassment issue returns
After the Indo-Pak understanding to observe the 2003 ceasefire was breached, the arrangement to follow the 1992 Code of Conduct (CoC) to end harassment and intimidation of diplomats also seems to be teetering on the brink of collapse.
TOI has learnt that Pakistan has thrice officially registered protest (in the form of note verbale) with ministry of external affairs (MEA) this month claiming that its diplomats were harassed by Indian authorities.
In “retaliatory” action, the Indian air adviser was detained for a while at the Islamabad airport on June 10 for not carrying his identity card provided by the Pakistan foreign ministry (MoFA). His card though, according to a South Block source, was awaiting renewal from MoFA.
A day before that, Pakistan alleged that its own air adviser here had his car broken into outside DLF Mall in Vasant Kunj.
These cases are the first to be reported since India and Pakistan invoked the CoC, which was meant to ring fence diplomats from frequent hostility in ties, on March 30 to resolve the month-long issue of harassment of diplomats in both Islamabad and Delhi.
India and Pakistan have had no substantive dialogue, barring the occasional exchanges between the NSAs, since December 2015 when foreign minister Sushma Swaraj visited Islamabad but the harassment of diplomats, which many saw as unprecedented even by Indo-Pak standards, saw bilateral ties hitting a new low.
Pakistan sent a protest note to MEA last week alleging that one of its top diplomats here was tailed and harassed by Indian authorities. On June 9, a day before the Indian air adviser was held at the airport, his Pakistan counterpart allegedly had his car broken into from outside a mall in Vasant Kunj. Indian authorities, as a source said, are trying to verify the authenticity of this claim.
However, there was another incident before that in which a visiting lady Pakistan diplomat was allegedly robbed of her mobile phone by a biker outside her hotel. Indian officials told Pakistan authorities here that this was a case of crime and that Delhi reports such cases of snatching daily. Delhi Police was later approached to register a case and investigate.
The purpose of the diplomat’s visit to India is not clear. A source said though that she was part of a junior-level Saarc delegation which was here for a meeting.
India is hoping that Pakistan will act with restraint as the case involving the lady diplomat at least did not involve harassment or intimidation. As it stated repeatedly in March, India remains willing to probe any case where a diplomat might have been unfairly targeted by Indian authorities.
Both sides also know that such incidents can acquire a life of their own, spawning a torrent of similar cases, and lead the 2 countries quickly into another vortex of bitterness.
India and Pakistan do need to keep some form of diplomatic engagement going, not least to address the issue of terrorism. In her annual press conference, Swaraj justified NSA talks and resumption of Track II Neemrana Dialogue saying that while talks and terror can’t go hand in hand, talks on terror can always take place.
According to the 1992 CoC, the dignity and personal inviolability of diplomatic/ consular personnel of the sending State and their families shall be guaranteed and fully respected by the receiving State.
It also states that intrusive and aggressive surveillance and actions such as verbal and physical harassment, disconnecting of telephone lines, threatening telephone calls, pursuit in cars and unauthorised entry into residences shall not be resorted to.