IN the world of diplomacy, the declaration of consular staff as personae non grata by the host state is amongst the oldest tricks in the book designed to indicate displeasure with the sending state. And in the current atmosphere in South Asia, with Pakistan-India relations in a decidedly cool phase, such a move can only serve to further strain ties. Two staffers of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi have been declared personae non grata by India and asked to leave the country “for indulging in espionage activities”. Pakistan has rejected the claims as “false and unsubstantiated”. This is not the first instance of its kind, and whenever ties dip such moves are made, with the other state responding in similar fashion.
The dispensation that currently rules India is averse to peace with Pakistan and will find even the slightest excuse to cut or limit ties with this country. The Foreign Office has termed the Indian move part of a “pre-planned and orchestrated media campaign”. At a time when both states should be combining forces to limit the spread of Covid-19 in the region, India is vitiating the atmosphere by making such moves, and repeating the mantra of terrorism to implicate Pakistan, all the while making threatening moves along the LoC. Instead of cutting ties, efforts should be made to extend the hand of cooperation at a time when the world is facing an unprecedented contagion that knows no borders, ideologies or religions. Yet with Hindutva, the guiding light of the ruling BJP clique, statesmanship and vision cannot be expected. If India had any genuine concerns about certain staffers, they should have been communicated to Pakistan via diplomatic channels. Pakistan should react to this ill-advised move calmly and resist provocations designed to further vitiate the atmosphere in South Asia. The focus should be on maintaining peace in the region and dealing with the coronavirus threat. Moreover, provocative attempts designed to spark a confrontation should be avoided by the Indian establishment.
Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2020