The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Boxed in, but soaring on a musical high

New Delhi, Jan. 20: Bollywood film buffs would tell you there is a film song for every situation. Few would, however, have imagined that there is also one for a senior Indian diplomat surrounded by hostile-looking men in Pakistan. But if you are a doubter, ask Sudhir Vyas, India’s charge d’affaires how he coped with the situation on Saturday evening in Islamabad.

Throughout the 45-minute ordeal when his flag-car was hemmed in by four vehicles carrying Pakistani intelligence operatives, Vyas and his wife sat in their comfortable Mercedez and listened to Hawa mein urta jaye, mera laal dupatta malmal ka, ho ji, ho ji…. It is another matter that the song was most inappropriate for the situation.

Vyas quickly assessed the situation and resigned himself to his fate. “I thought the best way to pass my time would be to enjoy the music while the blockade continued,” he told a friend later.” Vyas is known for being one of the “coolest cats” in South Block.

But if Vyas kept his cool, the Indian foreign ministry establishment could not help but express indignation over the manner in which its leading diplomat in Islamabad was treated. It summoned Pakistani charge d’affaires Jalil Abbas Jilani to South Block this afternoon and lodged a strong, formal protest over the “unprecedented harassment” meted out to its senior diplomat in Islamabad.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had reacted sharply to the incident last night. Vajpayee said Pakistan should decide what kind of a relation it desires. “If it wants hostility, our security forces are prepared to take care of our interests,” Vajpayee had said at a public meeting in Port Blair.

Today, the joint secretary of the Pakistan-Iran-Afghanistan division in the foreign ministry, Arun Singh, handed a note verbale — a document formally stating India’s position on the incident — to Jilani.

“Such harassment is unprecedented and amounts to a clear attempt by the Pakistan’s Intelligence Services to thwart the CDA in the performance of his diplomatic duties,” he said in the note.

Though harassment of mission staff is routine between India and Pakistan, so far no senior diplomat has been subjected to such acts. In the absence of the high commissioner, the CDA is the head of the Indian mission in Islamabad, and harassing him also shows a total disregard for any diplomatic norms and behaviour.

An aide memoire was also handed to Jilani, listing previous incidents of harassment of Indian officials by Pakistani sleuths.

Vyas was again hemmed in with Pakistani police officials’ vehicles coming “dangerously” close to Vyas’ car this morning, according to PTI. Three vehicles surrounded the car carrying Vyas and his wife Vasundhara all the way from his residence to the high commission, prompting the Indian mission to send another protest note to the Pakistan foreign office.

The note verbale protested the “aggressive and dangerous” way Pakistani officials drove their cars by the side of the vehicle of Vyas.

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