A day after India and Pakistan were engaged in a tit-for-tat spy dispute, Pakistan’s foreign minister has accused India of preparing to launch “a false flag operation” to divert attention away from the deadly border clash with China.
“The move of the Indian government is a clear attempt to move attention away from the disputed border between India and China and to move it towards Pakistan,” Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the Geo TV network on Wednesday.
A recent deadly clash between India and China – the worst in 45 years – in a disputed area of the Himalayas killed at least 20 Indian soldiers.
Qureshi alleged that India, “after being beaten and embarrassed” by China in the Himalayan incident, was trying to find an excuse for an operation against Pakistan.
He offered no evidence for his allegations, and there was no immediate comment from India or China.
Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan are traditional regional rivals and have fought three wars so far over the disputed Kashmir region, which is claimed in its entirety by both the nations.
India on Tuesday decided to expel half the staff in Pakistan’s embassy in New Delhi over allegations that Pakistani diplomats were “engaged in acts of espionage and maintained dealings with terrorist organisations”.
India’s move came after two people, identified as drivers for the Indian High Commission, were arrested in Pakistan earlier this month when they allegedly hit a pedestrian and tried to flee. Pakistani police said they found counterfeit currency in their vehicles. The two were later released and sent back to India.
In a reciprocal move, Islamabad also ordered a 50-percent reduction in the Indian diplomatic presence in the Pakistani capital.
“The Indian opposition is raising questions against them, which they cannot answer. So in order to divert attention, they have […] called our diplomat [to the Indian external affairs ministry] and demarched him and gave him a note verbale, accusing Pakistani diplomats of engaging in espionage,” Qureshi said.
He added that India’s “behaviour was incredibly unreasonable and in violation of the Vienna Conventions”.
Pakistani and Indian forces have been on maximum alert since last year, when Pakistan claimed it shot down two Indian warplanes in the disputed region of Kashmir and captured a pilot in response to an air attack by Indian aircraft targeting fighters inside Pakistan.
Tensions have been high after India in August scrapped Muslim-majority Indian-administered Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status and imposed a major security clampdown last year.
Indian government forces have also been conducting numerous military operations in Indian-administered Kashmir since a nationwide coronavirus lockdown was imposed in late March, killing dozens of fighters.
New Delhi regularly blames Islamabad for arming and training rebels before sending them across the border into Indian-administered Kashmir. Pakistan denies the charges.