Pakistan declares Indian High Commission official persona non grata, asks him to leave country

In a tit-for-tat action, Pakistan on Thursday declared an Indian High Commission official as persona non-grata and asked him to leave the country within 48 hours.

Last Updated: Oct 27, 2016, 23:26 PM IST
Pakistan declares Indian High Commission official persona non grata, asks him to leave country

Delhi: Hours after India asked a Pakistani High Commission staffer to leave country within 48 hours, after he was caught by Delhi Police with sensitive defence documents, Pakistan on Thursday declared an Indian High Commission official persona non-grata.

Pakistan Foreign Secretary conveyed decision of Pakistani government to Gautam Bambawale (Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan) to declare Surjeet Singh persona non-grata and asked him to leave the country.

"The Foreign Secretary (Aizaz Chaudhry) summoned the Indian High Commissioner today and conveyed the decision of the Government of Pakistan to declare Surjeet Singh, an official of the Indian High Commission, as persona non-grata," the statement said.

The Foreign Secretary expressed deep concern over the activities of the Indian official that were in violation of the Vienna Convention and the established diplomatic norms, it said, as per PTI.

The Indian High Commission has been asked to make urgent necessary arrangements for Singh and his family to leave Pakistan by October 29.

Earlier today, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar summoned Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit to inform "that India had intercepted an official of the High Commission in the pursuit of espionage and that he was being declared persona non grata".

"The Pakistan High Commission has been informed that Akhtar and his family must return to Pakistan by October 29 (Saturday)," Swarup said. 

Akhtar, detained on Wednesday and let off because of diplomatic immunity, had served in the mission for over two years during which he recruited Indians to spy for Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Delhi Police Joint Commissioner Ravindra Yadav said.

He was caught near the Delhi Zoo receiving defence-related vital information from two Indian nationals, Maulana Ramzan and Subhash Jangir, who were also allegedly working for the ISI, Yadav said.

One more person, Sohaib Nagaur, was arrested in Jodhpur on Thursday evening. The three are residents of Rajasthan and were being interrogated.

"They had collected information regarding defence, BSF (Border Security Force) deployment on the borders" in Rajasthan and Gujarat and also carried deployment charts and maps of some Indian positions, Yadav said, as per IANS.

The documents, including information about several retired Indian Army personnel and BSF officers serving on borders, were given to Akhtar in exchange of money, he said.

The police officer said Akhtar initially presented himself as an Indian citizen and also showed a fake Aadhar card, claiming he was Mehboob Rajput of Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi.

Yadav said after sustained questioning he admitted that he was a soldier with Pakistan Army's 40 Baloch Regiment since 1997 and was deputed to India by the ISI in 2013.

"He was a kingpin" of the spying network that was active for 18 months, the police officer said, adding the involvement of other staff members in the ring was not being ruled out.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Foreign Ministry said the diplomat was detained for three hours on "false and unsubstantiated" charges of espionage before he was returned to the mission.

"We condemn the detention and manhandling of our diplomatic official," a statement said.

"This act clearly reflects Indian actions to shrink diplomatic space for the working of the Pakistan High Commission," the statement. It noted that Akhtar's detention violated the Vienna Convention.

India categorically denied that the accused officer was mistreated. "He was treated with courtesy befitting his diplomatic status," Swarup said.

"In fact, it was Akhtar who resorted to subterfuge by concealing his real identity. Pakistan must ensure that none of its members indulge in activities inimical to India or behave in a manner that is incompatible with their diplomatic status."

(With Agency inputs)