New Delhi, Oct 27: Hours after India declared a Pakistan High Commission staffer Mehmood Akhtar ‘persona non-grata’ for spying and asked him to leave the country within 48 hours, Pakistan also declared an official of official of the Indian High Commission in Pakistan as ‘persona non-grata’. Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Gautam Bambawale and conveyed decision of Islamabad to declare Surjeet Singh as ‘persona non grata’.

According to reports, Pakistan government has asked Indian High Commission official Surjeet Singh to leave the country within 48 hours. Pakistan government has handed over the order against Surjeet Singh to Indian High Commission. “The activities of Surjeet Singh in Islamabad were in violation of Vienna Convention and established diplomatic norms,” Pakistan foreign office said in a statement.

The development came after Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar summoned Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit and informed that Mehmood Akhtar and his family must return to Pakistan by October 29. Mehmood Akhtar, who had served in the mission for over two years during which he recruited Indians to spy for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was caught near the Delhi Zoo receiving defence-related vital information from two Indian nationals, Maulana Ramzan and Subhash Jangir, who were also allegedly working for the ISI. (ALSO READ: Pakistan espionage case: India expels Pakistani diplomat Mehmood Akhtar spying for ISI)

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar summoned Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit to inform “that India had intercepted an official of the High Commission in the pursuit of espionage and that he was being declared persona non grata”.

The Pakistan Foreign Ministry said the diplomat was detained for three hours on “false and unsubstantiated” charges of espionage before he was returned to the mission. “We condemn the detention and manhandling of our diplomatic official,” a statement said. “This act clearly reflects Indian actions to shrink diplomatic space for the working of the Pakistan High Commission,” the statement. It noted that Akhtar’s detention violated the Vienna Convention.

India categorically denied that the accused officer was mistreated. “He was treated with courtesy befitting his diplomatic status,” Swarup said. “In fact, it was Akhtar who resorted to subterfuge by concealing his real identity. Pakistan must ensure that none of its members indulge in activities inimical to India or behave in a manner that is incompatible with their diplomatic status.”