ISLAMABAD            -          Pakistan on Tuesday warned India that it will respond in the same coin amid a diplomatic row.

In a late night statement, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Pakistan will not tolerate India’s illegal and provoking decisions to hide New Delhi’s failures at the international level.

Qureshi’s statement came after the Indian Ministry of External Affairs announced its government had decided to reduce staff strength in the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi by 50 percent.

The decision, which is to be implemented in 7 days, was conveyed to Pakistan’s Acting High Commissioner Syed Haider Shah.

“The Government of India has taken the decision to reduce the staff strength in the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi by 50 percent. It would reciprocally reduce its own presence in Islamabad to the same proportion,” the MEA said in a statement.

India also accused the Pakistani diplomats of violating the diplomatic norms. On May 31, India had expelled two officials of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi on allegations of spying — the first such move since 2016.

FM Qureshi said India was trying to hide its thrashing at the hands of China, the plight of the poor, the bloodshed in Kashmir and the massacre of the minorities by escalating tensions with the neighbours.

“Let there be no doubt that Pakistan will not stay silent. If 50 percent of the Pakistani staff has to return from India, then 50 percent from the Indian high Commision (in Pakistan) also have to go. We will respond on equality basis,” he asserted.

FM Qureshi said India was targeting Pakistani diplomats and levelling baseless allegations.

“It is rather India who sends people in guise of the diplomats. We have many examples. Our diplomats do what they are supposed to do. They never violate any rules,” he remarked.

The FM said the whole world was criticising India for killing Kashmiris and discriminatory laws against the minorities.

“India cannot hide anymore. The whole world knows the truth,” he maintained.

Earlier, the foreign ministry rejected Indian allegations against the Pakistani diplomats and made it clear that Islamabad was committed to global diplomatic norms.

A foreign ministry statement said Pakistan “categorically rejects and strongly condemns the baseless allegations” made by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs as a pretext to seek 50% reduction in the staff strength of the High Commission for Pakistan in New Delhi.

Pakistan, it said, completely dismisses allegations of any violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations by the officials of the High Commission for Pakistan in New Delhi and “reiterates that they always function within the parameters of international law and diplomatic norms.”

The foreign ministry said Pakistan also “rejects the insinuations of intimidation of Indian High Commission officials in Islamabad.”

It added: “The Indian Government’s smear campaign against Pakistan cannot obfuscate the illegal activities in which the Indian High Commission officials were found involved in. The MEA’s statement is another effort to distort facts and deny the culpability of these Indian High Commission officials in criminal offences.”

The latest Indian action is a part of India’s desperate attempts to divert attention from its state-terrorism and worst human rights violations in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, the statement said.

“India would be better advised to focus on its internal and external issues, rather than creating diversions at the cost of peace and stability in South Asia. Pakistan has been consistently sensitizing the world community that irresponsible policies of the BJP government are increasingly imperilling regional peace and stability,” the statement said.

It said the Indian Chargé d’ Affaires in Islamabad was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to convey Pakistan’s rejection and condemnation of the baseless Indian allegations.

“The Indian Chargé d’ Affaires was also informed of Pakistan’s decision to reduce the Indian High Commission’s staff strength by 50% as a reciprocal measure. The Chargé d’ Affaires was asked to implement the decision conveyed to him within seven days,” it said.