“Two officials of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi were arrested today by the Indian police authorities for participating in espionage activities,” said a statement from the Indian foreign ministry.
The statement added that the officials had been declared persona non grata “for participating in activities incompatible with their status as members of a diplomatic mission.” They have been asked to leave the country within 24 hours.
Pramod Kushwaha, Deputy Commissioner, New Delhi Police Special Cell Counter-terrorism unit said the two were “Pakistani citizens” who were participating in “activities against India when they were arrested”. No further details have been provided to clarify what the alleged activities are.
The ministry also issued the Pakistani business charge with a rally, a formal diplomatic message, voicing a strong protest against the two officials and asking to ensure that “no member of its diplomatic mission should engage in activities hostile to India or conduct itself in in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status. “
The Pakistani Foreign Ministry in Islamabad quickly condemned the expulsion of the diplomats and accused India of violating the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
“Two staff members of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi were raised by Indian authorities today (May 31, 2020) on false and unsubstantiated charges,” the statement said.
“We condemn arrest and torture, in addition to threatening and pressuring diplomatic officials to accept false charges.”
The statement did not go into detail about the torture that allegedly took place. The Pakistani Foreign Ministry said the two men had been released “by intervention of the High Commission.”
Pakistan’s foreign ministry said the decision to declare the two people non grata was “accompanied by a planned and pre-planned negative media campaign, which is part of the persistent propaganda against Pakistan.”
He said the Indian envoy was summoned and issued a campaign of his own, condemning “unfounded Indian accusations.”
Maj. Gen. Shashi Asthana, a retired additional director general of the Indian Army’s infantry unit, said members of the Pakistani embassy “have engaged in espionage activities over and over again, this time being captured.”
Meanwhile, the retired Pakistani military officer, Lt. Gen. Talat Masood, said the practice of expelling diplomats has moved to a “more severe dimension.”
“It is a time when both countries should focus on the pandemic, on the internal crisis. Instead, hostilities are now widening and becoming more regional,” he said.
The move comes as relations between South Asia’s neighbors with nuclear weapons remain strained.
On Monday, Pakistan attempted to frame the measure against High Commission officials as an attempt by India to divert attention from internal political problems and the situation in Kashmir.
“Indian attempts to escalate tensions will not succeed,” the statement from the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said.
CNN’s Sophia Saifi reported from Islamabad, Rishabh Madhavendra Pratap reported from New Delhi, and Helen Regan wrote from Hong Kong. Vedika Sud contributed to reporting in New Delhi.