Pak High Commission
Indian security personnel walk past the main gate of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters

In a tit-for-tat move, Pakistan has expelled an Indian diplomatic staffer in Islamabad hours after New Delhi resorted to a similar expulsion. Pakistan authorities declared Surjeet Singh, an Indian official working with the High Commission in the Pakistani capital, as "persona non grata".

Without divulging any specific charge against the staffer, Islamabad said the Indian's activities were contrary to diplomatic norms as local reports speculated Singh was expelled for "spying".

On late Thursday (27 October), Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry summoned Indian High Commissioner Gautam Bambawale.

Signalling a sharp deterioration in ties, India had previously expelled a junior Pakistani diplomat, Mehmood Akhtar, for allegedly engaging in spying activities. Akhtar was reportedly caught possessing sensitive documents involving Indian defence matters. Pakistan said the charges against Akhtar were "false and unsubstantiated" and expressed anger at the Indian authorities for "manhandling" him. Following a brief detention, the Pakistani national was let go by the Delhi police as he enjoys diplomatic immunity.

Both Akhtar and Singh were given time until Sunday (29 October) to leave from India and Pakistan respectively.

Amid the ongoing diplomatic tussle, trade ties between the two troubled neighbours could also be in jeopardy. The Federation of Pakistan's Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), the apex trade lobbying body, has indicated they would not hesitate to snap trading relations with India if the situation does not improve.

According to the Pakistani daily, Dawn, the trade group's president Abdul Rauf Alam said Pakistani firms are under no pressure to operate in such hostile conditions. He said the entire Pakistani business community would be unanimous when it comes to pulling out from India, if necessary.