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SOURCE: Hindustan Times

Pakistan on Sunday said the diplomat proposed by India as the next acting head of the Indian mission in Islamabad is too senior for the post even as it sought to link bilateral relations to the resolution of the Kashmir issue.

The name of Jayant Khobragade was proposed to the Pakistani side in June, days before New Delhi asked Islamabad to reduce the strength of its high commission by 50%. The move had triggered a reciprocal decision by the Pakistani side.

People familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity that the Pakistani side felt the diplomat was too senior to function as the charge d’affaires. One of the people said Khobragade’s current assignment – he has been serving on deputation with the Department of Atomic Energy since 2017 – could have been a factor in Pakistan’s decision.

The Indian and Pakistani high commissions in the two national capitals have been headed by the deputy chiefs of mission since August 2019, when Pakistan asked India to withdraw then high commissioner Ajay Bisaria as part of a slew of retaliatory actions in response to India’s decision to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special status.

Pakistan also opted at that time not to go ahead with the posting of the diplomat who had been chosen as its next envoy to India.

A statement from Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson said: “Pakistan believes that by proposing a senior diplomat, who has already served as ambassador in another post, India is trying to circumvent the effect of downgrading of diplomatic relations, which is obviously not in line with Pakistan’s decision.”

Khobragade, who served as a counsellor in the Indian mission in Islamabad some years ago, has also held assignments in Russia, Kazakhstan and Spain, and was ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic during 2013-17.

“However, keeping in view the diplomatic norms, Pakistan has counselled India to nominate an officer with seniority commensurate with Pakistan’s decision of downgrading the diplomatic relations,” the statement added.

The Pakistani spokesperson referred to “veiled threats” in sections of the Indian media that the visa issue would “further destabilise” bilateral ties and said that “it must be clear that the relations between India and Pakistan are inextricably linked to the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions”.

There was no immediate reaction from Indian officials to the Pakistani spokesperson’s comments.