In a signal of further freeze in Indo-Pak ties, Pakistan has decided not to participate in the World Trade Organisation meet starting in New Delhi next week. The move follows the return of its High Commissioner this week, which was termed “normal” by the Union External Affairs Ministry.
India last month invited Pakistan Commerce Minister Pervez Malik to participate in the informal WTO ministerial meeting scheduled to be held in New Delhi on March 19-20 and Islamabad had initially accepted the invitation.
“We cannot send our commerce minister to India in the current situation and India has been informed about it,” a Pakistan official was quoted by the reports.
Trade ministers of over 50 nations including the US, China and Pakistan were invited by India to discuss issues related to agriculture and services. The decision to stay away from WTO meeting in India coincided with the recalling of Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Sohail Mehmood.
Mahmood arrived in Islamabad last evening for consultations after Pakistan alleged repeated harassment of its diplomats in New Delhi.
Official sources in the Pakistan foreign ministry said Mahmood will brief top officials about the situation. They said that options were on the table including not sending back Mahmood for an indefinite period.
“Our high commissioner will not return to India anytime soon,” a Pakistan national daily quoted a senior foreign office official as saying.
There have been allegations by India as well of repeated harassment of its diplomatic staff in Pakistan. However, Pakistan officials have rejected those allegations.
The official justified the move, insisting that under current circumstances it was not possible for the high commissioner to operate out of New Delhi.
When asked whether Pakistan was contemplating withdrawing the families of its diplomatic staff, the official said it might have to if the current slide in the relationship continued any further.
(With inputs from PTI)