Pakistan’s Commerce Minister Pervaiz Malik will not attend a World Trade Organization meeting scheduled to be held in New Delhi from Monday, The Express Tribune reported. Ministers from Australia, China, the European Union, the United States and several African countries will attend the conference.
Malik made the decision because of health problems, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mohammad Faisal told The Hindu. However, reports said the commerce minister was skipping the event in New Delhi after India and Pakistan exchanged claims of harassment against their diplomats.
“We cannot send our commerce minister to India in the current situation and India has been informed about it,” PTI quoted an unidentified official in the ministry as saying.
Islamabad’s decision came in the backdrop of India issuing another note verbale – a form of written diplomatic protest – to Pakistan on the alleged harassment of Indian High Commission officials on Saturday. The diplomats were subjected to “aggressive surveillance and harassment,” the Indian High Commission said in its second such protest in as many days.
Meanwhile, The Express Tribune reported that Islamabad’s envoy to India Sohail Mahmood will not return to his post till the diplomatic standoff between the two countries was resolved. Mahmood was summoned home on March 15 to consult on the alleged incidents of harassment of Pakistani diplomatic staff in New Delhi.
The move was justified as it was not possible for Mahmood to operate out of New Delhi under the prevailing current circumstances, the daily quoted an unidentified Pakistani official as saying. “Children have never been harassed even when two countries have had the worst of relationship,” the official pointed out.
On March 8, two cars allegedly followed the vehicle carrying the children of Pakistan’s deputy high commissioner. The driver was reportedly forced to step out of the vehicle and was intimidated. Five days later, the Pakistan High Commission circulated a video showing a slow-moving car blocking one of its diplomat’s vehicles in the national Capital. The High Commission claimed that Indian security services had a role in the incident and that a man took the diplomat’s photographs.
Pakistan has reportedly blocked access to Indian government websites since May 2017, which has affected the functioning of the Indian High Commission in the country as well as those seeking visas to India, a news report said on Saturday.