India tells Pakistan to cut embassy staff by half, says will do same

New Delhi (AFP)

India told Pakistan Tuesday to slash its embassy staff in New Delhi by half — saying it would do the same in Islamabad — as a diplomatic spat continued between the nuclear-armed rivals.

The fractious relationship between the neighbours has worsened since New Delhi expelled two Pakistan embassy officials over spying claims in late May.

The Indian and Pakistan flags fly during the daily beating of the retreat ceremony at the Wagah Border
The Indian and Pakistan flags fly during the daily beating of the retreat ceremony at the Wagah Border NARINDER NANU AFP

After that happened, New Delhi accused Islamabad of torturing two Indian diplomats arrested following an alleged hit-and-run in the Pakistani capital.

The men returned to India on Monday, where they “provided graphic details of the barbaric treatment that they experienced”, the foreign ministry claimed.

“The behaviour of Pakistan and its officials is not in conformity with the Vienna Convention and bilateral agreements on the treatment of diplomatic and consular officials,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Therefore, the government of India has taken the decision to reduce the staff strength in the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi by 50 percent.”

The ministry said it would also “reciprocally reduce its own presence in Islamabad to the same proportion”.

Pakistan foreign ministry officials in Islamabad did not immediately comment.

The staff cuts were to be implemented in seven days, the Indian statement added.

The Pakistan High Commission in Delhi was allowed up to have up to 106 personnel, but in recent months Islamabad reduced staff levels to about 80, diplomatic sources told AFP.

Tensions were already high after India in August scrapped Muslim-majority region Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status and imposed a major security clampdown.

Kashmir was split between India and Pakistan in 1947 when they gained independence from Britain.

Indian government forces have also been conducting numerous counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir since a nationwide virus lockdown was imposed in late March, killing dozens of alleged militants.

New Delhi regularly blames Islamabad for arming and training rebels before sending them across the border into Indian-administered Kashmir. Pakistan denies the charges.

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