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Pakistan has decided not to participate in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) meet in New Delhi next week, as a protest against alleged harassment of its diplomats in India.
India had invited Pakistan commerce minister Pervez Malik to participate in the informal WTO ministerial meeting scheduled to be held in New Delhi on 19 and 20 March.
Sources in the foreign ministry said the situation has changed after “repeated harassment of families of diplomats” and it was decided to skip the invitation.
“We cannot send our commerce minister to India in the current situation and India has been informed about it,” according to a source.
He said India should also stop the alleged violations of the ceasefire on the Line of Control that led to the death of civilians and also stop “atrocities” in Kashmir.
The invitation was part of December 2017 secret back-channel negotiations between the two National Security Advisers Nasser Janjua and Ajit Doval and it is believed that Pakistan okayed its participation after the Financial Action Task Force’s indication that Pakistan will be put on the ‘grey list’ in June for allegedly failing to control terror financing.
Trade ministers of over 50 nations including the US, China and Pakistan were invited by India to discuss issues related to agriculture and services.
The decision to stay away from WTO meeting in India coincided with the recalling of Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Sohail Mehmood.
Mahmood arrived last evening for consultations after Pakistan alleged repeated harassment of its diplomats in New Delhi.
Meanwhile, Pakistan is weighing options to deal with the situation in the wake of calling back of its High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood from New Delhi due to alleged harassment of diplomats in India.
Mahmood arrived a day after the Foreign Office spokesman said that he was being summoned for consultation “due to non-stop harassment of families of the diplomats”.
Official sources in the foreign ministry said Mahmood will brief top officials about the situation.
“A decision to how address the situation will be made after the consultations,” sources said.
They said that options were on the table including declaring New Delhi as a non-family station and not sending back Mahmood for an indefinite period.
Officials rejected allegations that Indian diplomatic staff were also facing hurdles and harassment in Pakistan.
“Our high commissioner will not return to India anytime soon,” the Express Tribune quoted a senior foreign office official as saying.
It reported that initially it was thought he would return to New Delhi after consultations with authorities.
However, the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the high commissioner would stay back for an indefinite period or “until Indian agencies stop intimidating the staff and families of their diplomatic mission” in New Delhi.
Pakistan’s relations with India touched a new low on Thursday after Islamabad announced that it was recalling its envoy to New Delhi for ‘consultations’ over harassment of its diplomatic staff and their families by Indian secret agencies.
“Our High Commissioner in New Delhi has been asked to come to Islamabad for consultations,” Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal told reporters at the weekly briefing.
The move came against the backdrop of a series of recent incidents in which Pakistani diplomatic staff and their families — including children — were harassed by the Indian secret agencies.
The spokesperson said Pakistan lodged a strong protest with both the Indian high commission in Islamabad as well as External Affairs Ministry in New Delhi.
“This deliberate bullying, which continues is not confined to a single isolated event, and continues unabated despite repeated official protests lodged with the Indian high commission here, and also with the Indian Ministry of External Affairs at the highest [level],” Faisal further said.
He said the Pakistani mission also shared photographs, identifying the individuals, who forcibly halted and took pictures of the officers, with the Indian External Affairs Ministry.
“In other words, Pakistan recalled its envoy to New Delhi as a protest till the situation improves,” it reported.
The official justified the move, insisting that under current circumstances it was not possible for the high commissioner to operate out of New Delhi.
“Children have never been harassed even when two countries have had the worst of relationship,” he said.
When asked whether Pakistan was contemplating withdrawing the families of its diplomatic staff, the official said it might have to if the current slide in the relationship was not arrested.
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