NEW DELHI, Oct 27, (Agencies): India announced Thursday it was expelling a Pakistani visa official for suspected spying after he was briefly detained carrying sensitive defence documents, with tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours already running high. New Delhi police said the official had been recruiting Indian nationals for two and a half years to spy for Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in return for cash. “Delhi police crime branch has busted an espionage racket run by a kingpin working in the Pakistan high commission,” said Ravindra Yadav, joint commissioner of police on crime.
The official, named as Mehmood Akhtar, was detained on Wednesday with documents in his possession on Indian troop deployment along the border, Yadav told a press conference in Delhi. “They used to meet once in a month at a pre-decided place to exchange documents and money,” he said. Akhtar was later released, he added. India’s foreign secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar summoned Pakistan’s high commissioner to inform him of the decision to expel the official within 48 hours.
“FS (foreign secretary) summons Pak High Commissioner to convey that Pak High Commission staffer has been declared persona non grata for espionage activities,” Indian foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said on Twitter.
Tensions between India and Pakistan have soared since a raid last month on an Indian army base near the de-facto border dividing Kashmir killed 19 soldiers, the worst such attack in more than a decade. India blamed militants in Pakistan and said it had responded by carrying out strikes across the heavily-militarised border, although Islamabad denies these took place. Indian and Pakistani troops regularly exchange fire across the border known as the Line of Control in Kashmir, but sending ground troops over the line is rare.
Yadav said two Indian nationals from the northern state of Rajasthan were also arrested, and that Akhtar had planned to meet his Indian coconspirators at the Delhi zoo to exchange the information and cash. He said Akhtar was carrying maps that showed the deployment of India’s Border Security Forces (BSF) and army soldiers. “A list of jawans (soldiers) posted at the border along with soldiers who had retired from service was also recovered,” Yadav said