The Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson, Vikas Swarup, on Thursday announced that Pakistani High Commission staffer Mehmood Akhtar has been ordered to leave the country in 48 hours, ANI reported. Earlier in the day, MEA officials said Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Basit was summoned by the ministry and was informed that Akhtar had been declared persona non grata (an unacceptable or unwelcome person) for espionage activities.
Akhtar was questioned at a police station in Chanakyapuri, Delhi's diplomatic enclave, for allegedly possessing highly-classified defence documents, NDTV reported. "The official said he is an Indian citizen and also showed a fake Aadhaar card," said Joint Commissioner (Crime) of Delhi Police Ravindra Yadav. It was later established that Akhtar was a Pakistani High Commission staffer.
Officials also said they had arrested two men from Rajasthan – Maulana Ramzan and Subhash Jangir – for leaking the documents to Akhtar and would make another arrest soon.
Basit had earlier denied India's accusations and had, instead, accused the country of manhandling a Pakistani staffer. He'd the high commission "never engages in activity incompatible with its diplomatic status". Pakistan has also accused India of violating the Vienna Convention, an international agreement that sets parameters for diplomatic relations, The New York Times reported. Vikas Swarup in his statement said Islamabad's denial had become "quite characteristic", ANI reported.
According to the joint commissioner of police, Akhtar had been an officer in the Pakistan Army's Baloch regiment who was later hired by the Inter-Services Intelligence. He worked in the high commission's visa department, the official said, adding that those involved had been carrying out the espionage activities for at least 18 months, and their movements had been monitored for the past six months.
Documents recovered from the spies from Rajasthan included papers on deployment of defence personnel, maps of where Border Security Force officers had been stationed and visa-related documents.
In November 2015, five people were arrested after a syndicate of spies associated with Pakistani intelligence was exposed. A few employees of the Pakistan High Commission had come under the radar after the operation.
Akhtar's detention comes amid strained relations between India and Pakistan, which worsened since the militant attack on the Army's camp in Kashmir's Uri sector. Several security personnel have lost their lives in cross-border firing on both sides of the Line of Control. People living in the affected area have also been forced to migrate to safer locations.