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Diplomats' expulsion and diplomatic norms

Published : Saturday, 29 October, 2016 at 12:00 AM  Count : 410

Expulsions of diplomats on the basis of specific charges by host governments are understandable, indeed perfectly in order. It has been a norm with states since the Cold War and even later. In more recent times, we have seen the convention at play rather intensely in South Asia, where Bangladesh has had to order the expulsion of quite a few Pakistani diplomats in light of accusations that the diplomats were engaged in less than diplomatic activities in Dhaka. In these past few days, with relations between India and Pakistan worsening over Kashmir, the authorities in Delhi have ordered the expulsion of a Pakistani diplomat on charges that he was trying, through local spies, to obtain information on sensitive matters for his government.
The rules of diplomacy are in clear violation when diplomats stationed in a country go for such acts as seeking information about such sensitive areas as defence through their spy networks. That is not the way diplomacy works, for the purpose of diplomacy remains a bridging of ties between nations. Once that trust is broken, it is only natural that a host country will take offence and take action. In similar fashion, it is unacceptable that foreign embassies in a country --- and this has happened and continues to happen around the world --- should be bugged and the authorities of host nations listen in on all conversations of people whom they are expected to treat with courtesy and in line with the highest diplomatic norms. In other words, diplomatic relations take a dip when diplomats engage in espionage and host governments intrude on the sanctity of foreign missions stationed in their capitals. Both are acts which reflect the failure of certain governments to come to terms with ethical principles associated with state-to-state relations in our times.
There is another problem which arises in all this discussion of a violation of diplomatic norms. We observe that the Pakistani authorities have, in retaliation, ordered the expulsion of an Indian diplomat in Islamabad. Not long ago, when a Pakistani diplomat was seen to be engaged with militant groups in Bangladesh, she was promptly ordered to leave. In retaliation, Pakistan gave forty-eight hours to a Bangladesh diplomat in Islamabad to leave the country. Such acts of retaliation are not natural and are clearly an attempt, by whichever country indulges in them, to paper over the realities of a situation. Ideally when a diplomat is expelled from a country, it ought to be the responsibility of the government of the country to which the expelled diplomat belongs to inquire into the charges in order to see if the reasons for the expulsion were proper and based on truth. A retaliatory expulsion, which involves ordering a diplomat to leave for no good rhyme or reason only because his or her counterpart has been sent home by his or her country, demonstrates an absence of knowledge about the workings of diplomacy. Moreover, it raises the suspicion that the country whose diplomat has been expelled on specific charges may really have been involved in the whole sordid business. Why else would its diplomat go around doing things that are a patent violation of the rules and conventions of diplomacy?
It becomes necessary for governments, not just in South Asia but elsewhere as well, to study the issue in its proper perspective. Knee-jerk reactions, such as those periodically resorted to by Pakistan whenever its diplomats are caught in undiplomatic activities in places like Dhaka and Delhi, do not advance the cause of good relations between nations.

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