'Reacted with restraint' to avoid escalation of tensions with India: Pak on expulsion of 2 officials

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'Reacted with restraint' to avoid escalation of tensions with India: Pak on expulsion of 2 officials

Islamabad, Jun 4 (PTI) Pakistan on Thursday said it has 'reacted with restraint' to avoid escalation of tensions with India in the wake of expulsion of its two officials by New Delhi on charges of spying.

India on Sunday declared two officials of the Pakistan High Commission as 'persona non grata' on charges of espionage and ordered them to leave the country within 24 hours.

The two officials, Abid Hussain and Muhammad Tahir, were caught by Delhi Police while they were obtaining sensitive documents relating to India's security installations from an Indian national in exchange of money, official sources in New Delhi said.

At the weekly media briefing, Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said, 'Pakistan has no desire to escalate the situation, we have reacted with restraint. However, violations of diplomatic norms and India's continued belligerent attitude is a threat to regional peace and security.' Farooqui reiterated that the charges against the two Pakistani officials were 'false' and 'unsubstantiated'.

'Pakistan has strongly rejected the baseless Indian allegations and condemned Indian tactics which are in clear violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations as well as norms of diplomatic conduct,' she said.

The punitive action against the two Pakistani officials came in the midst of frayed ties between the two countries over reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir by India.

Pakistan had downgraded diplomatic ties by expelling the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad following India's decision to withdraw special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate the state into two union territories in August last year.

Accusing India of unprovoked firing along the Line of Control (LoC), Farooqui said, Pakistan 'remains ready to defend itself against any misadventure or aggressive action'.

To a question about Sino-India tension, she said Pakistan is closely monitoring the situation along the China-India border areas.

'We hope that the issue will be resolved in line with agreed understandings and established mechanisms to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas,' she said.

Farooqui said at Pakistan's request, under the aegis of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), a decision was made at a ministerial-level meeting of Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Iran to revive communication between the regional countries through FAO’s Commission for Controlling the Desert Locust in South-West Asia (SWAC) on March 11.

In response, each country, through SWAC, agreed to constitute a Technical and Operational Coordination (ToC) Team to exchange information; enhance coordination at the border areas; and increase synchronisation to combat desert locust outbreak in the region, she said.

Farooqui said Pakistan has been participating in SWAC meetings on a weekly basis which are fruitful in exchanging information in the bordering areas of Pakistan and India.

'We believe that the respective Technical Teams have been coordinating appropriately through FAO,' she said, adding that Pakistan remains committed to cooperating with all SWAC member states, including India, in combating desert locust outbreak. PTI SH SCY

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