WASHINGTON: The United Sates urged Pakistan and India to minimise tensions between the two neighbouring countries after New Delhi announced on Thursday it was expelling a Pakistani visa official for suspected spying, with Islamabad responding by saying it would send back an Indian diplomat in an apparent tit-for-tat move on the same day.
At a media briefing in Washington, the US State Department Spokesman John Kirby refused to comment on the recent expulsion decisions by the two countries, saying the US would leave the issue to India and Pakistan to work out.
“Well, obviously, we don’t want to see that happen,” he said when a reporter mentioned that such incidents in the past worsened the situation.
Kirby said the US wanted Pakistan and India to discuss and solve their issues.
Expulsions for spying
The diplomatic-level expulsions come as tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours are running high over their disputed territory of Kashmir.
Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary summoned the Indian High Commissioner on Thursday night to say that Islamabad would also be sending back a diplomat over alleged improper activities.
“The Foreign Secretary expressed deep concern over the activities of the Indian official that were in violation of the Vienna Convention and the established diplomatic norms,” an official statement said.
It named the official as Surjeet Singh and added he and his family would also be required to leave within two days.
Earlier, Indian police claimed that a Pakistani official was found recruiting Indian nationals for two-and-a-half-years to allegedly spy for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in return for cash.
The official, named as Mehmood Akhtar, was detained on Wednesday with alleged documents in his possession on Indian troop deployment along the border. He was later released
However, India’s foreign secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar summoned Pakistan’s high commissioner to inform him of the decision to expel the official within 48 hours.
Tensions between India and Pakistan have soared since a raid last month on an Indian army base near the de-facto border dividing Kashmir killed 19 soldiers. India blamed militants in Pakistan, although Islamabad denies these took place.