BSF Pakistan High Commission officials Attari border
Border Security Force (BSF) personnel check documents of Pakistan High Commission officials and their families returning to their home country, near the India-Pakistan Wagah Border post at Attari in Amritsar district, Tuesday, June 30, 2020. Image Credit: PTI

Islamabad: At least 38 staffer of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad and 39 staff members of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi returned to their countries along with their families via the Wagah-Attari border on Tuesday.

The moves come after Pakistan and India decided to significantly scale down diplomatic presence by 50 percent in the wake of deteriorating relations between the two neighbours. The development also comes amid increased tensions between the two countries as ceasefire violations continue along the Line of Control (LoC).

Nearly “39 staff members of Pakistan High Commission along with their families returned to Pakistan via Wagah border”, according to an official statement.

The recent move comes after New Delhi asked Islamabad to reduce the strength of Pakistan’s mission to 50 per cent (from 110 to 55) after which Pakistan also asked India to cut down its staff members within the seven-day time frame, according to officials.

Indian High Commission officials Attari
Indian High Commission officials travel in a car to a quarantine facility amid concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus as they returned to India near the India-Pakistan Wagah border post, about 35 km from Amritsar on June 30, 2020. Image Credit: AFP

The last time the two countries downgraded half of the employees was in 2001.

The embassies in both countries have been functioning without high commissioners for the past one year. In August 2019, Pakistan announced to downgrade diplomatic relations with India and expel the Indian high commissioner after India stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status.

When did Pakistan-India diplomatic spat begin?

On May 31, India expelled two Pakistani High Commission employees over spying allegations, which formed the basis for the current spat. Pakistan denied the Indian allegation. Later, on June 15, Islamabad police detained two staffers of the Indian High Commission saying they were involved in a hit-and-run accident.