ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan has accused old rival India of trying to distract the attention of its people by expelling Pakistani diplomats after Indian forces got a “battering” at the hands of Chinese troops in a clash on their disputed Himalayan border.
Pakistan is concerned about the tension after the June 15 clash in the Ladakh region, in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed, in particular about the possibility Pakistan could get dragged in, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said.
“Things have deteriorated, things are very delicate,” Qureshi told Reuters in an interview at his ministry in Islamabad late on Thursday.
The three nuclear-armed neighbours all have historic disputes over high-altitude border demarcation in the Himalayas.
For years, confrontation between India and Pakistan has been seen as the most dangerous of the disputes but the violence between Indian and Chinese forces has renewed alarm about theirs too.
Qureshi denounced India’s announcement on Tuesday that it would expel half the staff in Pakistan’s embassy in New Delhi over spying, saying India was trying to divert attention at home.
“The accusations were baseless,” he said.
“They have no answers for the battering they got in Ladakh, so to quell the domestic dissent they want to refocus,” he said.
India’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Qureshi said he was concerned that India could try to get Pakistan involved in the regional tensions with a “false flag operation” - an incident staged to provide a pretext for action.
He said he feared any Indian “misadventure” in Pakistan’s territory would prompt Pakistan to respond with force.
Qureshi said Pakistan backed the position of its ally China over Ladakh and he had recently had a call with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, who had expressed appreciation for that position.
China and Pakistan have long had close diplomatic and economic ties.
China has pledged about $60 billion for projects in Pakistan central to China’s Belt and Road initiative to develop land and sea trade routes across Asia and beyond.
Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; additional reporting by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Robert Birsel
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.