Indian diplomat declared persona non grata
Indian diplomat to return home after being declared persona non grata. [Representational Image] Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry (back R) holds talks with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyan Jaishankar at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad, 3 March 2015.Reuters

An Indian High Commission officer in Pakistan has returned home after being declared 'persona non-grata' by the Pakistan government in an apparent tit-for-tat move over the arrests made by Delhi Police in an espionage case involving a Pakistan High Commission staffer.

Surjeet Singh was ordered to leave the country with his family within 48 hours. Singh left Islamabad late on Friday, the Dawn reported.

In diplomacy, persona non-grata means person not appreciated, referring to a foreign person whose entering or remaining in a country is prohibited by the country's government. It is the most serious form of censure which a country can apply to foreign diplomats, who are otherwise protected by diplomatic immunity from arrest and other kinds of prosecution.

Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Gautam Bambawale was summoned by Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry to discuss the issue.

"The Foreign Secretary expressed deep concern over the activities of the Indian official that were in violation of the Vienna Convention and the established diplomatic norms," a Pakistan Foreign Office statement said.

Pakistan's decision to expel Surjeet came hours after the Narendra Modi government decided to expel Mehmood Akhtar, a visa officer at the Pakistani High Commission in India for "espionage activities."

Pakistani High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit was summoned by Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar to convey India's decision. Basit, however, denied the charges as "false and unsubstantiated."

Basit also protested the "detention and manhandling" of Akhtar by police, which according to him contravened the Vienna Convention.

Akhtar was allowed to leave after it was revealed that he worked with the Pakistani High Commission and was entitled to diplomatic immunity. But he was asked to leave the country within 48 hours.

Delhi Police have claimed that Akhtar was the "kingpin" of an espionage network active in India for the past 18 months. Akhtar was caught along with two others with defence documents, including deployment details of the Border Security Force along the India-Pakistan border.

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