India to expel half of Pakistani high commission staff over spying allegations

Words by Sanjay Jha, ITV News in New Delhi

The Indian government has expelled half the staff of Pakistan’s high commission in New Delhi for what it described as engagement in "acts of espionage"

India will also cut staff in its own high commission in Pakistan's capital Islamabad by 50%.

The decisions, which are to be implemented in seven days, have been conveyed to the Pakistani charge d’affaires in New Delhi.

In a strongly worded statement, the Indian foreign affairs ministry said: "They have been engaged in acts of espionage and maintained dealings with terrorist organisations.

“The activities of the two officials caught red-handed and expelled on May 31, 2020, was one example in that regard.

"While their officials indulged in actions that are not in conformity with their privileged status in the High Commission, Pakistan has in parallel engaged in a sustained campaign to intimidate the officials of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad from carrying on their legitimate diplomatic functions."

Relations between the two nuclear powers has always been strained and tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats are common.

India expelled two Pakistani diplomats last month after they were held for alleged spying, which Islamabad called "baseless".

Following this incident, two officials at the Indian High Commission in Pakistan were allegedly abducted and tortured by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for 10 hours before being released.

Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties in August last year when it pulled out its high commissioner and ordered the expulsion of the Indian envoy after New Delhi revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.