New Delhi, Nov 23:
Spying allegations levelled by Pakistan against Indian High Commission officials in Islamabad were a “crude attempt” by the neighbouring country to tarnish India’s image, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has informed the Lok Sabha.
In a written reply, the minister also said that the naming of officials in the media, was a violation of the Vienna Convention.
Pakistan earlier in November named eight officials of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad and alleged they were working for the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) or the Indian Intelligence Bureau.
Pakistan’s move came on the heels of India apprehending an official of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi for allegedly indulging in anti-India activities.
“The allegations against Indian officials represent an afterthought on the part of Government of Pakistan and constitutes a crude attempt to tarnish the image of India,” Sushma Swaraj said in the written reply.
“The manner in which their names and photographs were prominently published in Pakistani media along with baseless allegation reiterated without any corroboration by Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs is against the Vienna Convention and also violates the norms of established diplomatic practice and courtesies,” she said.
The minister said the officials and their family members were brought back to India in three batches on November 8, 10 and 12.
She also said that the Indian government has taken a “number of initiatives” to normalise India-Pakistan relations.
“Government had taken a number of initiatives to normalise India-Pakistan relations, peacefully and bilaterally, in an environment free from terrorism and violence.
“At the same time, Government is also resolutely committed to take all necessary steps to ensure the security of the nation and the safety of our citizens,” she said.
In October, Pakistan High Commission official Mehmood Akhtar was apprehended by Indian authorities for allegedly indulging in anti-India activities. He was declared persona non grata on October 28.
The Indian government had summoned the Pakistan High Commissioner on the same day and registered strong protest about the activities of Akhtar, who left India on October 29 along with his family.
On October 28, the Pakistan Foreign Ministry declared Surjeet Singh, Assistant Public Welfare Officer in the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, as persona non grata without providing any justification, “except for the baseless and unsubstantiated allegation that his activities were not in keeping with diplomatic norms”. Surjeet Singh subsequently returned to India on October 29.
On November 2, Pakistan government withdrew six Pakistan High Commission officials, whose names had reportedly appeared in media as a result of the interrogation of Akhtar.
“It was Government of Pakistan’s own decision to withdraw these six officials without any prior communication to the Government of India regarding the same. They left India on November 2, along with 25 family members,” the minister said in her reply.
Pakistan withdrew another two officials on November 16.
On November 2, Pakistani media prominently carried names of eight Indian officials of the High Commission of India, Islamabad Counsellor R.K. Agnihotri, First Secretary Balbir Singh, First Secreatary (Trade) Anurag Singh, Attache Amandeep Singh Bhatti, APWO J. Senthil, and Assistants D. Sodhi, V.K. Verma and M. Nandakumar, along with their photographs.
The Pakistan media reports alleged that these officials were involved in subversive and terrorist activities in Pakistan.
On November 3, in the weekly media briefing Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially released their names and official designations.
“The litany of baseless charges against them was repeated,” she said. (IANS)