India to expel Pakistani Mehmood Akhtar for ‘espionage’

Pakistan High Commission official in Delhi given 48 hours to leave the country after brief detention.

BSF soldiers are on a high alert along the international border in Jammu
Tension is on the rise on both sides of the Line of Control following the Uri attack last month [EPA]

India is to expel a Pakistan High Commission official for “espionage activities”, the foreign ministry said, with tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours already running high.

India’s foreign secretary, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, summoned Pakistan’s High Commissioner Abdul Basit to inform him of the decision to expel Mehmood Akhtar, who was briefly held in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Delhi police crime commissioner Ravindra Yadav said the official had been detained on Wednesday with defence and other documents in his possession.

The documents included information on deployment of India’s border security forces, Yadav told a press conference.

Two men from Rajasthan have been arrested for allegedly leaking sensitive documents to Akhtar, who was let off because of diplomatic immunity.

“The Pakistan High Commission official was the kingpin,” said Yadav.

“He used to recruit Indians for spying and send information to Pakistan. The [spying] module was active for a year and a half. We were working [on] it for the past six months. We recovered documents on defence deployment and border area maps. They had lists of BSF men who were deployed, transferred or retired.”

A Pakistan High Commission official in New Delhi confirmed to Al Jazeera that Akhtar has been given 48 hours to leave the country.

READ MORE: India claims striking suspected rebels in Pakistan

“The High Commissioner was summoned and informed about India’s decision,” the official told Al Jazeera.

“Pakistan High Commission strongly denies and rejects the accusations levelled against the staff member by the India government. We strongly protested the decision as well as the detention and manhandling of our staff member.

“We also urge the government of India to ensure such harassment does not happen in the future.”

A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pakistan said: “This act clearly reflects Indian actions to shrink diplomatic space for the working of Pakistan High Commission..

“The Indian attempts to escalate the tensions and divert the international attention from the grave human rights occupation forces in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir can never succeed,” the statement added.

Tensions between India and Pakistan have soared since a raid last month in Uri, an Indian army base near the de facto border dividing Kashmir, which killed 19 Indian soldiers, the worst such attack in years.

‘Surgical strikes’

In response, India’s military said it had conducted “surgical strikes” against “terrorist units” on Pakistan’s side of the border. Pakistan rejected the claims as an “illusion”

The two countries have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947 – two over Kashmir, the Muslim-majority region claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan. 

There has been regular exchange of fire across the LoC since the Uri attack.

Seven Pakistani soldiers were killed in retaliatory fire by Indian forces along the disputed Kashmir border on Saturday, according to Indian officials, but Pakistan refuted those claims.

On Monday, shelling across the border between killed two Pakistani civilians and an Indian soldier, military officials from the two sides said. 

The Listening Post – India-Pakistan: Media on fire

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies