ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and India on Friday agreed to address complaints of harassment of diplomats in accordance with the bilaterally agreed 1992 ‘Code of Conduct’ on treatment of diplomatic and consular staff in each other’s country.
The agreement was announced through a statement simultaneously issued by the Foreign Office and the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.
The statement reads: “India and Pakistan have mutually agreed to resolve matters related to the treatment of diplomats and diplomatic premises, in line with the 1992 ‘Code of Conduct’ for treatment of diplomatic/consular personnel in India and Pakistan.”
The discussions between the two countries had begun after Pakistan recalled its High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood for consultations following a spike in incidents of harassment of Pakistani diplomats in Delhi. India, meanwhile, too had been complaining about the treatment of its diplomats in Islamabad.
It is said that over 50 incidents of harassment of Pakistani diplomats and their families took place between March 7 and 23. It turned ugly when the children of Pakistani diplomats while on way to their schools were stopped and harassed.
Both countries will adhere to 1992 Code of Conduct on treatment of diplomatic staff
India, meanwhile, claims to have sent 15 note verbales to the Foreign Office to protest over alleged maltreatment of their diplomats in Pakistan.
The harassment of Pakistani diplomats had increased after security agencies in Islamabad insisted that the employees of a private contractor working on Indian High Commission’s residential complex get security clearance. This requirement was misread in Delhi as coercive and agencies there started harassing Pakistani diplomats.
The discussions on addressing each other’s complaints had significantly progressed when High Commissioner Mahmood last week returned to New Delhi. His visit to Ajmer Sharif for attending the Urs of Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti became possible because of the flexibility shown by the host after behind-the-scenes talks.
Similarly, in Islamabad, Indian diplomats after a long break attended the March 23 Joint Services Parade.
After Mr Mahmood’s return to Delhi, the foreign secretaries of Pakistan and India met the high commissioners of the other side in their capitals and reached this agreement. The agreement, multiple sources confirmed, had been finalised a couple of days before its formal announcement when Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria met Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua. Bisaria is currently visiting Lahore.
High Commissioner Mahmood had met Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale in Delhi.
Code of conduct
The 1992 Code of Conduct was signed by then foreign secretary Shaharyar Khan and his Indian counterpart J.N. Dixit for “smooth and unhindered functioning” of each other’s diplomatic missions and consular staff and to ensure that the privileges and immunities of the diplomatic and consular staff and premises were not violated.
The 12-point code of conduct provides for guaranteeing dignity and personal inviolability of diplomatic and consular personnel posted in each other’s country; avoidance of intrusive and aggressive surveillance, harassment, threatening, tailing of cars and trespassing on residences; safety and security of the diplomatic and consular staff and their families and unhindered working of the local domestic staff engaged by diplomats at their residences; no harassment and questioning of visitors; inviolability of official and private vehicles of the diplomatic and consular staff; respect for religious, social and cultural sensitivities of the host state; and the strength of missions and the procedure for issuance of visas to diplomatic and consular staff.
The code of conduct describes the process for dealing with complaints and cases of breach of diplomatic protocols by the diplomats and consular staff. It also envisages facilitation for media personnel.
Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2018