India, Pak officials reach out to resolve standoff over harassment of diplomats

India, Pak officials reach out to resolve standoff over harassment of diplomats
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New Delhi, Mar 28: Almost a fortnight after the diplomatic spat between India and Pakistan, the two neighbouring sides have begun efforts to put a stop to incidents of harassment of diplomats and their families. According to a report in a national newspaper, top officials of the High Commissions in New Delhi and Islamabad are in touch with Foreign Offices over the phone to discuss the matter.
Citing sources, the report said that Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua is in touch with Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria in Islamabad and Pakistan’s envoy Sohail Mahmood is in discussions with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi.
“We are talking (on the issue)…we are in touch (with each other),” a source told the daily.
Earlier this month, Pakistan had summoned its ambassador to India for consultations amidst allegations by both sides that their staff and families were harassed in their respective capitals. While Pakistan claimed that three of its diplomats were harassed and their families were threatened in New Delhi, India said the neighbouring side’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence officials had raided its embassy’s residential compound in Islamabad in February.
Immediately after this, Sohail Mahmood returned to Islamabad for consultations with government officials. However, the MEA sought to downplay it terming it a routine visit. Mahmood returned to New Delhi on last Thursday night to host the 70th Pakistan National Day celebrations on March 23 at the Pakistani High Commission. In his remarks on the occasion, the envoy had said that he wants to sort out the matter of harassment of diplomats as early possible.
The report noted that the issue of harassment has marred the ‘atmosphere created by positive response to the humanitarian proposals’. “Efforts are underway to once again build the atmosphere for the humanitarian gestures, related to prisoners.”
The latest turn of events at the diplomatic level was said to be the worst since 2002-03. At that time too, India and Pakistan had accused each other of harassing their diplomatic staff.