(Eds: With more inputs including Pakistan”s reaction)
New Delhi, May 31 (PTI) India on Sunday declared two officials of the Pakistan High Commission as ”persona non grata” on charges of espionage and ordered them to leave the country within 24 hours, the Ministry of External Affairs said.
The two officials, Abid Hussain and Muhammad Tahir, were caught by Delhi Police while they were obtaining sensitive documents relating to India”s security installations from an Indian national in exchange of money, official sources said.
“The government has declared both these officials persona non grata for indulging in activities incompatible with their status as members of a diplomatic mission and asked them to leave the country within 24 four hours,” the MEA said in a statement.
The sources said the officials were working at the visa section of the Pakistan High Commission and confessed during the interrogation that they worked for Pakistani spy agency ISI.
In a statement in Islamabad, Pakistan Foreign Office condemned India”s action against the two officials, calling the allegations baseless.
It said the action is “clearly aimed” at shrinking diplomatic space for the working of Pakistan High Commission in Delhi.
“Pakistan strongly rejects the baseless Indian allegations and deplores the Indian action which is in clear violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations as well as the norms of diplomatic conduct especially in an already vitiated atmosphere,” it said.
The punitive action against the two officials came in the midst of frayed ties between the two countries over reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir by India.
Pakistan had downgraded diplomatic ties by expelling the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad following India”s decision to withdraw special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate the state into two union territories in August last year.
The MEA said a strong protest was lodged with the Charge de Affairs of the Pakistan High Commission over the activities of its two officials against India”s national security.
“Pakistan”s Charge de Affairs was asked to ensure that no member of its diplomatic mission should indulge in activities inimical to India or behave in a manner incompatible with their diplomatic status,” it said.
The sources said the two officials, working at the visa section of the Pakistan High Commission, were handing over Indian money and an iphone for providing them the documents.
The officials initially claimed that they were Indian nationals and even produced fake Aadhaar cards, the sources said.
A similar case had taken place in October 2006.
– PTI MPB RT