India on Tuesday said it will reduce the staff strength of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi by 50% and will also recall half of its officials from the Indian High Commission in Islamabad amid the ongoing diplomatic tussle between both the countries.

The Ministry of External Affairs summoned Syed Haider Shah, the Charge d’Affaires of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi and expressed concern about the activities of the officials of his mission, a press release said. On May 31, the Centre had expelled two Pakistan High Commission employees on espionage charges. Abid Hussain and Mohammed Tahir were accused of behaviour “incompatible with their status as members of a diplomatic mission” and were asked to leave India within 24 hours.

“While their officials indulged in actions that are not in conformity with their privileged status in the High Commission, Pakistan has in parallel engaged in a sustained campaign to intimidate the officials of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad from carrying on their legitimate diplomatic functions,” the foreign ministry said. A fortnight after the expulsion, two Indian nationals, employed as drivers in the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, went missing for several hours. Paul Selvadhas and Dwimu Brahma were, however, later released by authorities in Pakistan after India filed a strong protest.

The MEA said their “abduction at gunpoint” underlines the extent to which Pakistan has tried to intimidate Indian officials. “These officials who have returned to India on 22 June 2020 have provided graphic details of the barbaric treatment that they experienced at the hands of Pakistani agencies,” it added.

India reiterated that the behaviour of Pakistan is not in conformity with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961 and the Code of Conduct of 1992, that ensures safety of Indian and Pakistani diplomats during hostile exchanges.

“On the contrary, it is an intrinsic element of a larger policy of supporting cross-border violence and terrorism,” the MEA said. “Therefore, the Government of India has taken the decision to reduce the staff strength in the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi by 50%. It would reciprocally reduce its own presence in Islamabad to the same proportion. This decision, which is to be implemented in seven days, was conveyed to the Pakistani Charge d’Affaires.”