Diplomatic spats

Updated January 16, 2019

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WITH Pakistan-India ties seemingly in a deep freeze, diplomats and consular staff of the two countries once again appear to have become victims of harassment and intimidation.

A 1992 agreement, a code of conduct that both countries agreed to for the treatment of diplomatic and consular personnel in India and Pakistan, is being tested after Pakistan protested the police detention of a Pakistani High Commission official in New Delhi, and India has countered with allegations of rough behaviour by Pakistani security personnel against senior Indian diplomats in Islamabad.

The latest accusations come less than a year since India and Pakistan once again decided to abide by the 1992 code of conduct, a re-commitment that became necessary after a spate of unsavoury incidents in New Delhi and Islamabad.

The fresh incidents should be dealt with quickly and appropriately in both New Delhi and Islamabad — whatever the difficulties in ties between the two states, diplomats must be allowed to continue with their work of representing their country and should not face intimidation and harassment.

Unhappily, some elements in both countries view normal diplomatic work with a great deal of suspicion and perhaps do not comprehend the risks of a diplomatic rupture between the two states.

The disruption to the lives of diplomats is just the latest indicator that a serious rethink of the state of Pakistan-India ties is needed in both countries.

The Pakistani leadership — both the civilian and military — has repeatedly stated its interest in dialogue on all issues with India, including terrorism, but the stubbornness of the Indian leadership has not made possible even preliminary talks about eventual dialogue.

Perhaps the Pakistani leadership can look towards specific offers and innovative ideas to draw the Indian leadership into a dialogue process.

Of course, if Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government only see Pakistan as a useful rhetorical and political foil in the upcoming Indian general election, there may be nothing that the Pakistanis can do to try and break the impasse in bilateral relations.

Whatever the case, the tendency to target diplomats in India and Pakistan is an unwelcome practice that must immediately cease. The 1992 bilateral code of conduct has survived many ups and downs and acute tensions. It is a sensible agreement that ought to be upheld by India and Pakistan both in letter and spirit.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2019