Pakistan seems to have queered the pitch for a possible thaw in ties between Islamabad and New Delhi by intimidating people invited for an Iftar celebration on Saturday.
Video clips of the incident posted on Twitter showed Pakistan’s security forces stopping and turning away several large sedans at Hotel Serena where India’s high commissioner in Islamabad, Ajay Bisaria, was hosting the Iftar celebration. Other footage showed Pakistani security personnel, some in uniform, aggressively forcing people back into their cars.
The act, which will be seen as a provocation by India, is expected to further strain ties between the two countries, which have been tense in the aftermath of the 14 February suicide attack in Pulwama, which killed 40 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force. Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, had taken credit for the attack. India then launched an air raid to take out a terrorist training camp in Pakistan, following which Pakistani military jets tried to bomb Indian military installations in Kashmir. Indian Air Force jets, however, foiled that attempt.
It was speculated that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and Prime Minister Narendra Modi could explore the possibility of re-engagement when they meet on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation talks in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan later this month. This was especially so in the light of Khan reaching out to Modi with a congratulatory message after the latter’s victory in the Lok Sabha elections.
However, Saturday’s incident seems to have cast a shadow on the possibility of a thaw.
India issued a strongly worded protest on Sunday against what it described as “gross intimidation” of those invited by the Indian High Commission. The “disappointing chain of events of 1 June not only violate basic norms of diplomatic conduct but are against all notions of civilized behaviour,” the high commission’s protest note said. “Stopping diplomats and officials of the High Commission of India in Pakistan from discharging their diplomatic functions by intimidation and coercion is entirely counterproductive for our bilateral relationship,” it said.
“We apologize to all our guests who were aggressively turned away from our Iftar. Such intimidatory tactics are deeply disappointing,” Bisaria was cited as saying by media reports.
This is not the first time that Indian officials had faced harassment in Pakistan. Last month, India had raised concerns after two diplomats facilitating arrangements of Sikh pilgrims at Gurdwara Sacha Sauda near Lahore were locked up in a room for 20 minutes. The diplomats were threatened and told never to come to the area again.
“Guests faced unprecedented harassment and intimidation at the hands of (Pakistani) security agencies,” the Indian High Commission said.
A large posse of personnel from the Pakistani security establishment were equipped with forklifts and cars of many of the visitors were removed, the note said. As many as 300 invitees, including Pakistani parliamentarians, government officials, journalists, retired diplomats, and military personnel besides businessmen, were turned away, the note said. When Indian diplomatic staff tried to intervene, they were “rudely rebuffed and intimidated” and some of them “jostled, pushed, abused and aggressively threatened by bodily harm,” it said.
Pakistan President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Khan were also invited for the Iftar celebration but stayed away, media reports said.,bare face,flawless,Treatment