India, Pakistan in diplomatic spat after ISI raids Indian complex
NEW DELHI: India and Pakistan are in the middle of a major diplomatic spat with both sides accusing each other of harassing, even intimidating, diplomats. While Pakistan has now issued a demarche to India saying it was becoming difficult for its diplomats to function in Delhi, sources here said the present round of hostility was initiated by an ISI raid on a residential complex under construction for Indian diplomats in Islamabad.
A group of 7-8 men raided the residential complex last month and disconnected the electricity and water supply to the property which is owned by India. Indian high commissioner Ajay Bisaria met the Pakistan foreign secretary on February 16 to strongly protest such "multiple acts of hooliganism" against Indian staff and property. Despite the protest by Bisaria, the power supply wasn’t restored for over two weeks. Bisaria himself had his car intercepted recently in the middle of the road as he was prevented from attending an event, sources here said.
Official sources here didn’t confirm a report in Pakistani media that Islamabad had threatened to pull out family members of their diplomats but said India will investigate the allegations. They said that Indian diplomats and their family members were regularly harassed in the recent past by Pakistani authorities. Indian diplomats have repeatedly complained about having to deal with unauthorised entry into their premises and also random interception of their cars. In one case, unidentified men are said to have broken into an Indian official’s home and stole his laptop.
The government, as a source said, has also not taken kindly to the fact that Islamabad Club has sought to deny membership, which is open to all diplomats, to Indian high commissioner Ajay Bisaria and other Indian diplomats. Pakistan’s interior ministry is yet to issue the no-objection certificate required for the membership given to Indian diplomats.
"Harassment is the new normal for Indian high commission personnel in Islamabad," said a source here.
In its demarche, according to a Pakistani media report, Islamabad said the children of its deputy high commissioner were harassed by Indian authorities while they were on their way to school. Another diplomat is said to have had his car intercepted and searched while on his way home.
Late last year, India pulled out two junior officials from its high commission after the ISI honeytrapped them and later tried to blackmail them. These developments threaten to undermine an attempt by both governments to move on by first addressing humanitarian issues like release of prisoners who have served their jail terms. The two countries, only last week, agreed to the release and repatriation of prisoners over 70 years of age and also women prisoners.
Sources said that in view of such an atmosphere of intimidation, most families of Indian officials had returned to India and children had been withdrawn from schools. "Aggressive surveillance, violation of physical space and tailing of officers in close and dangerous proximity is a perennial issue. Agency personnel keep shooting videos of the officers thrusting phones on their faces. Obscene phone calls and messages are constantly received on phones," said a source.
On the issue of India’s residential project in Islamabad, sources said Pakistan had denied visas to Indian companies involved in the construction. The main contractor, who is responsible for maintenance of the chancery, is said to have been threatened by Pakistani officials. He was told to leave the complex and also warned of action against him if he continued to do business with the Indian mission. India believes that Pakistan diplomats here are operating in a much better environment than their Indian counterparts in Islamabad.
“The truth is that even the chancery can’t go about its normal business as the security guards have been threatened by Pakistani officials and asked not to allow any local to the chancery building," a source here said.