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8 India diplomats in Pak targeted, 6 Pak envoys leave

| SRIDHAR KUMARASWAMI
Published : Nov 3, 2016, 4:36 am IST
Updated : Nov 3, 2016, 4:36 am IST

Six Pakistani diplomats from its high commission in New Delhi, including the four whose names were flashed on Indian TV channels last week as alleged ISI handlers, flew back to Pakistan on Wednesday a

Six Pakistani diplomats from its high commission in New Delhi, including the four whose names were flashed on Indian TV channels last week as alleged ISI handlers, flew back to Pakistan on Wednesday after being recalled by Islamabad, even as India is set to recall as many as eight of its diplomats from Pakistan. On Wednesday, Pakistani TV channels started flashing the names of eight Indian diplomats, accusing them of subversive activities, that is seen as a tit-for-tat action by Islamabad. This means India will have to recall these eight diplomats soon, leading to a huge diplomatic quandary.

The Indian government is apparently furious that one of India’s security agencies had recklessly leaked the names of the four Pakistani diplomats, alleged to be ISI handlers, to Indian TV channels last week without realising the diplomatic implications of such action. This also means India and Pakistan will have to post several new faces at their high commissions soon. New Delhi is upset at the latest turn of events, which it feels was utterly needless and triggered by the leakage of names of the Pakistani diplomats to Indian TV channels. There is also a strong possibility that heads may roll in the security agency whose officials leaked the names. The latest episode has come as yet another setback to India-Pakistan ties, as India on Wednesday summoned Pakistan’s deputy high commissioner Syed Haider Shah to the external affairs ministry and lodged a strong protest over the unprovoked border firing by Pakistan and the recent mutilation of the body of an Indian soldier by a terrorist near the Line of Control.

“Details of eight Indian diplomats have been put in the public domain by Pakistan, compromising their security,” Indian government sources said in New Delhi, indicating New Delhi may recall these eight from Islamabad. The names of the four Pakistani diplomats — commercial counsellor Syed Furrukh Habib and first secretaries Khadim Hussain, Mudassir Iqbal Cheema and Shahid Iqbal — were leaked last week to Indian TV channels over a probe into the espionage ring after Pakistan high commission staffer Mehmood Akhtar was caught red-handed receiving sensitive documents pertaining to the Indian military and paramilitary forces. India had declared Akhtar persona non grata and ordered him to leave the country by October 29, after which he left. Sources said the eight Indian diplomats whose names have been flashed on Pakistani TV include first secretaries and counsellors.

Pakistani sources were quoted by PTI as saying in New Delhi: “The decision (to recall the six diplomats) was taken after it became impossible for the officials to work in this vitiated atmosphere. The Indian government is threatening and blackmailing our diplomats. So in this condition, it is impossible for us to stay in this country and work.”

PTI reports from Islamabad said Pakistani TV channels claimed one Indian diplomat was directly linked to the Research and Analysis Wing, India’s external intelligence agency, while another was working for the Intelligence Bureau, and that they were allegedly using their positions in Pakistan as a cover to hide their real identities.

In a statement on Wednesday, the external affairs ministry said: “Deputy high commissioner of Pakistan Syed Haider Shah was summoned to the MEA today. He was (told of) the government’s grave concern and strong protest at the recent escalation in incidents of ceasefire violations by the Pakistan side at the Line of Control and International Border, which have resulted into several fatalities and casualties on the Indian side among civilians and security force personnel. The government also registered its strong protest over the mutilation of the body of an Indian soldier by a terrorist who escaped across the Line of Control after committing the heinous crime.”

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi