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Insights into Editorial: Building trust: On India-Pakistan ties

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Context:

Two Indian nationals, employed as drivers in the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, went missing for several hours on Monday, in a suspected case of abduction by local security agencies.

However, later released by authorities in Pakistan after India lodged a strong protest.

Upon the release, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed in a note that both the drivers were involved in a traffic accident in the morning and were arrested.

The initial police report had claimed that the duo was involved in fake currency circulation though the issue remains unconfirmed by the Pakistan foreign office.

Pakistan staffers expelled:

The incident comes a fortnight after India expelled two employees of the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi on espionage charges.

They were accused of behaviour “incompatible with their status as members of a diplomatic mission” and were asked to leave India within 24 hours.

Since the expulsion, the Indian mission in Pakistan has witnessed persistent harassment of diplomats and non-diplomatic staff.

The daily harassment had become serious and India had sent a note verbale to ensure its officials are treated according to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961 and the Code of Conduct of 1992 that ensures safety of Indian and Pakistani diplomats during hostile exchanges.

In addition, Ceasefire violations have become a everyday occurrence:

  1. The shelling and the retaliations along the Line of Control with Pakistan are a matter of consternation, because it has been allowed to go on so long as to become an everyday occurrence.
  2. The unfortunate death of Sepoy, and the airlifting of two other soldiers, and Sepoy to the Command Hospital in Udhampur because of injuries due to shelling in Poonch sector are the latest grim reminders of this phenomenon.
  3. All of May the Pir Panjal range, which fronts the Kashmir Valley, has seen mortar and small arms firing.
  4. This has been a worrying trend, as when the shells reach deeper they fall in residential areas, in villages such as Churunda and Silikote.
  5. When shells begin raining, villagers panic, leave their homes and run further, to temporary shelters.
  6. This additional disruption to life in the aftermath of the dilution of Article 370 last August and the COVID-19 lockdown, is something that should be addressed with urgency.
  7. Shelling should not be allowed to be a regular occurrence. Ceasefire with Pakistan along the Line of Control is obviously not working, and the government needs to build bomb shelters for civilians until normalcy returns.

Pakistan firing in Poonch kills soldier:

There has been heavy exchange of fire at the Line of Control (LoC) after ceasefire violations in several sectors by Pakistan, within hours of the deadly encounter at Handwara that claimed the lives of four soldiers and a J&K policeman.

Army sources said the soldiers posted along the LoC are inflicting “punishment” for the ceasefire violations by Pakistan at Balakote and Manakote in Poonch, Keri and Tarkundi in Rajouri, Pallanwala in Akhnoor and Uri in Baramullah.

Ceasefire violations have taken place at five locations in Jammu and one in Kashmir.

Sources said that the Army is responding with pin-point firing targeting the outposts and other establishments of the Pakistani Army and the launchpads of terrorists.

The commanders along the LoC have been told to respond strongly to ceasefire violations.

High tension diplomacy between the two countries:

The abduction of the drivers along with their vehicles, apparent physical assault and charging them with crimes, is part of the high-tension diplomacy between the two countries, where the missions located in the respective national capitals often bear the brunt of hostilities.

Despite the talk of treating diplomats according to international conventions, diplomats often run the risk of harassment.

Conclusion:

Unfortunately, aspects of relations with Pakistan in other spheres are in poor repair as well.

The two personnel from the Indian mission in Islamabad going suddenly missing for a while points to further breakdown in relations.

It makes evident that India and Pakistan are unable even to adhere to reciprocal protocols regarding staff posted in the missions.

Whether or not it is a tit-for-tat reaction for India having expelled two Pakistan High Commission officials, on charges of espionage, India must take steps to ensure its diplomatic personnel are spared such harassment, which is always present and episodically on show.

But with New Delhi studiously avoiding any serious engagement, is the staffing in Pakistan commensurate with the vastly shrunk bilateral relations?

As the pandemic rages, with travel curbs and reduced face-to-face opportunities, it might be prudent to temporarily maintain only essential mission staff in Pakistan till India is able to obtain trust and stability in the ties.