India and Pakistan announced they would each expel one of the other’s diplomats amid growing tension between the arch-foes over the disputed region of Kashmir.
India said it would expel a Pakistani diplomat based in New Delhi who allegedly ran a spy ring that collected sensitive information about Indian security operations along its border.
Late on Thursday night, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said it had declared an Indian diplomat, Surjeet Singh, persona non-grata and given him 48 hours to leave the country.
Police in the Indian capital said the Pakistani diplomat was detained on Wednesday outside the gates to Delhi Zoo, where he had met two Indian associates whom police believe he had recruited to spy for him.
The Pakistani diplomat, who reportedly worked in Pakistan High Commission’s visa section, and his alleged Indian accomplices were found with forged documents, defence-related maps, deployment charts and lists of officers working along India’s border with Pakistan, Indian police said in a statement.
“There was high probability that the information passed on by these anti-national elements to PIO (Pakistan intelligence operative) is being used against the national interests and could be highly detrimental for national security,” they said, adding they had been trying to break the spy ring for six months.
An Indian foreign ministry spokesman said the man, who was released from custody under diplomatic immunity rules, must leave the country by Saturday.
Pakistan’s High Commission in New Delhi rejected the allegations, saying in a statement it “never engages in any activity that is incompatible with its diplomatic status”.
Later on, Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry announced it had declared Singh persona non-grata and informed the Indian High Commission he had until Saturday to leave the country.
The statement said Singh was accused of activities “that were in violation of the Vienna Convention and the established diplomatic norms” but did not elaborate.
An aide to India’s prime minister in New Delhi said the government was looking into the matter. India’s external affair’s ministry spokesman was not immediately available for comment.