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Diplomatic warfare: India, Pakistan expel each other's high commission officials

Two other persons, residents of Rajasthan, have been arrested for allegedly passing on sensitive information to Akhtar. Photograph: (AFP)

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Oct 27, 2016, 06.37 AM (IST)

Hours after India asked a Pakistan high commission staffer to leave the country on charges of espionage, Pakistan asked an official of the Indian High Commission to leave the country for 'violating the Vienna convention' on diplomatic relations.

Pakistan's foreign secretary summoned the Indian high commissioner, declaring the official, Surjeet Singh, persona-non-grata, and asked him to leave the country by October 29, a press release by the ministry of foreign affairs said. The Indian High Commission has been asked to make "urgent arrangements" for him and his family to leave the country, the statement read.

Earlier in the day, Delhi police had detained Pakistan high commission staffer, Mahmood Akhtar, and arrested two others - Maulana Ramzan and Subhash Jangir, who were allegedly working for an ISI spy ring, PTI reported.   Akhtar was, however, let off soon after since he has diplomatic immunity on Indian soil. He was asked to leave India within 48 hours.

Another Pakistani spy, Shoaib, was arrested in the evening from Rajasthan, and is being brought to the national capital for further interrogation, news agency ANI reported.

PTI reported the police as saying Akhtar, who worked in the visa section of the high commission, was "procuring critical details" from the other two men arrested.  

Ramzan and Jangir, who were produced before the chief metropolitan magistrate have been remanded for custodial interrogation till November 8.

"The accused were involved in espionage activities for over a year-and-a-half. We were watching their activities for past six months. On a specific input, they were held yesterday. Akhtar is a kingpin of the spy ring," joint commissioner of police (crime branch) R S Yadav said at a press conference.

PTI quoted a senior police officer as saying, "Since Akhtar was working in the visa department, it gave easy access to him to identify people who could work for him as spies. People who were financially weak would be lured by promise of getting big money."

Akhtar confessed during interrogation that he was posted in the Pakistan high commission for about two-and-a-half years and was working in the visa section, police said.

He said he was on deputation to the ISI since January 2013. He was a serving Hawaldar of 40 Baloch Regiment of Pakistan army and a native of village Kahuta in Rawalpindi district, police officials told PTI.

Pakistan high commissioner Abdul Basit was summoned by the Indian foreign ministry after Akhtar's detention.

The Pakistan foreign office said in a statement that Basit strongly protested with the Indian foreign secretary the "detention and manhandling" of the Pakistan high commission staffer in violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention, according to Pakistan foreign office.

The Pakistani envoy also denied the accusations as "false and unsubstantiated".

Tensions between India and Pakistan have been mounting for the last few months.

India’s Uri army base near the de-facto border dividing Kashmir was attacked by militants on September 18; India blames Pakistan for the attack.

Following the terror attack, India launched what it called a "surgical strike" on jihadist staging posts in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

(WION with inputs from agencies)

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