A day after Pakistan was asked to reduce its staff at its High Commission in New Delhi by half, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Wednesday accused India of plotting an attack on his country to divert its Opposition's attention from its border dispute with China.
Speaking to Geo Pakistan, Qureshi said, "India's mood is clear [for all to see] as it wants to divert attention from its border dispute with China to Pakistan." He claimed that India was finding excuses to launch a 'false flag operation' against Pakistan.
But he did not elaborate or give any evidence. "The Opposition in India is raising questions that their government can't answer," he said, referring to the criticism being faced by the Modi government regarding its response to the border dispute with China in the Galwan Valley in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed.
Qureshi warned India to refrain from launching any attacks on his country, saying Pakistan would respond with full force if New Delhi embarks on "any misadventure". Stating that India had levelled baseless allegations against Pakistani diplomats of spying in New Delhi, Qureshi alleged that the Pakistani staff was harassed in India and their cars were followed by authorities.
He said that Pakistan had not only condemned the allegations but also rejected them. He said that the Indian Charge d' Affaires in Islamabad was summoned on Tuesday and told that the same treatment would be meted out to the Indian staff. "We told him [Indian Chargé d' Affaires] that because of this unilateral policy, you also wrap up and slash your [diplomatic staff] presence by 50 per cent. If Pakistani staff returns home, Indian staff will also go back," Qureshi said.
On Tuesday, India had told Pakistan to slash its embassy staff in New Delhi by half - saying it would do the same in Islamabad. "The behaviour of Pakistan and its officials is not in conformity with the Vienna Convention and bilateral agreements on the treatment of diplomatic and consular officials," the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.
"On the contrary, it is an intrinsic element of a larger policy of supporting cross-border violence and terrorism. Therefore, the Government of India has taken the decision to reduce the staff strength in the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi by 50 per cent," the MEA said.
The already fractious relationship between the two nations strained further after India expelled two Pakistan embassy officials for spying in late May. India also accused Islamabad of torturing two Indian diplomats arrested in an alleged hit-and-run incident in Islamabad.
Islamabad police later said both Indian High Commission officials were released due to their diplomatic immunity and had been handed over in the presence of Pakistani ministry's officials.
India's expulsion of the two Pakistani officials and subsequent harassment of Indian High Commission staffers in Islamabad by Pakistani agencies came in the midst of frayed ties between the two countries over the reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir by India.
Top Pakistani leaders, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, have been raising the issue of India planning to attack the country again after the Indian Air Force jets bombed a terror training camp in Balakot in February.
The ties between India and Pakistan further nose-dived following the abrogation of article 370 in August that revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. The move angered Pakistan, which downgraded diplomatic ties with India and expelled the Indian High Commissioner.