On the face of it, India’s decision to downgrade diplomatic ties with Pakistan may appear harsh but a closer look at the ground realities suggest that such a move was inevitable and justified. The Pakistani embassy has also been asked to reduce its headcount by half in a week. When the entire world is grappling with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, Islamabad has been on an unrelenting pursuit of exporting terror to India and violating the ceasefire at the Line of Control (LoC). The unabated militant attacks in the Kashmir Valley is a testimony to this. Recently, two officials of the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi were caught spying and having links with terrorist organisations, prompting India to declare them as persona non grata. Earlier on June 15, two officials of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad were abducted and tortured by the Pakistani agencies. Such actions amount to violation of the Vienna Convention and bilateral agreements on treatment of diplomatic and consular officials. The last time India downgraded diplomatic ties by asking Pakistan to reduce the staff strength in its high commission was after the Parliament attack in December 2001. However, as relations improved by 2005, the staff strength at both missions returned to the normal level. Pakistan had downgraded diplomatic ties in August last year after India abrogated Article 370, ending the special status of Jammu & Kashmir. Since then, the missions of the two countries are headed by a charge d’affaires, not a high commissioner.
The past few months have seen a steady rise in ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the LoC, infiltration of militants, and concomitant increase in terrorist activity in Kashmir. The Handwara encounter in May in which five Indian soldiers and a policeman were killed came as the biggest loss to the Army in recent years. It was followed by another terror attack in the same area in which at least three jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were killed. A steady rise in the militant attacks in the Valley is a grim reminder of Islamabad’s devious strategy of stepping up nefarious activities even as the entire world is grappling with the task of containing the spread of Covid-19. Pakistan has been ratcheting up violence in Kashmir since the scrapping of special status. This is despite the threat of much harsher sanctions from the global watchdog, Financial Action Task Force (FATF), for failing to check terror funding on its soil. Though Covid-19 pandemic provided a perfect opportunity for Islamabad to reset its priorities and explore a new path of mutual cooperation, its myopic rulers and military bosses squandered it away. They have chosen to continue the agenda of pushing terrorists into India.
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