Bad to worse: On India-Pakistan ties
# In another round of tit-for-tat manoeuvres, India, followed by Pakistan, has decided to halve the strength of diplomatic missions in each other’s capital.
# The government’s decision, conveyed in a démarche to the Pakistani Chargé d’affaires on Tuesday, follows the ill-treatment and torture of Indian personnel posted in Islamabad, in clear violation of their diplomatic rights.
Thaw in India-Pakistan ties
# Pakistan’s contention was that the two men arrested were carrying fake currency, but it is more likely the action was a response to arrests and the expulsion of two Pakistani High Commission officials accused of espionage last month, who were also taken into custody by Indian security officials.
# New Delhi also accused Pakistan High Commission officials of maintaining “links to terror organisations” as a reason for its decision.
# While expulsions of diplomats are not uncommon between countries as inimical to each other as India and Pakistan are, this is the first time such a measure has been taken since 2001.
# Then, the Parliament attack in December 2001, and the largest military mobilisation of the time along the India-Pakistan border, Operation Parakram, were the triggers.
# Eventually, after a thaw in ties, and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s visit to Pakistan for the SAARC summit in 2004, the move was reversed and diplomats were gradually taken back to a full strength of over a 100 in each High Commission.
# The latest decision follows not one event, but a general downslide in relations in the past year.
# After the Pulwama attack last February, the Balakot air strike and the August 5 decision to amend Article 370 of the Constitution and reorganise Jammu and Kashmir, India and Pakistan have snapped all trading ties, downgraded missions — now without High Commissioners — and shut down most diplomatic activities.
# India and Pakistan have had no talks since 2015, when PM Modi visited Lahore, and the External Affairs Ministers met a few months later.
# All sporting and cultural exchanges are at an end, and visas are rarely granted, apart from the rare exception being made for the Kartarpur corridor inaugurated last year.
# From the LoC, where ceasefire violations continue to claim lives of soldiers and civilians on both sides, to practically every multilateral forum India and Pakistan are a part of, both sides are at daggers drawn.
# Even on non-contentious issues such as cooperating on the coronavirus pandemic as a part of the SAARC grouping, or collaborating against the recent locust invasion that affected the region, Islamabad and New Delhi are unable to find common cause.
# While the present seems bleak, the future does not augur well for a change, particularly as India-China tensions occupy New Delhi’s concerns and focus.
# The decision to reduce mission strengths is unlikely to impact working relations between India and Pakistan at present. It is a sign, however, that just when it seems ties between the two neighbours cannot get much worse, they do.
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