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Pakistan has decided to stay away from the World Trade Organisation’s ministerial meet to be held in New Delhi on March 19-20 in protest against alleged harassment of its diplomats in India.

Over 40 countries have been invited to the meeting. Pakistan was invited but it turned down. This would be the second mini-ministerial meeting being hosted by India. The first was in 2009.

Pakistan had initially accepted the invitation, but sources in Pakistan foreign ministry said the situation has changed after “repeated harassment of families of diplomats” and it was decided to skip the invitation, reported Business Standard (BS).

“We cannot send our commerce minister to India in the current situation and India has been informed about it,” according to a source quoted by BS.

“It was Pakistan’s decision to pull out at the last minute, and the Indian side could not comment on it,” an Indian official was quoted as saying by NDTV.

This follows a prolonged stand off between the two countries marked by accusations and counter accusations of their diplomats and their families stationed in each other’s capitals.

India reportedly sent a note verbale to Pakistan on Friday with seven points highlighting in chronological order incidents of Indian diplomats being harassed.

Pakistan has rejected the charges and alleged that even the children of its diplomats stationed in Delhi were not being spared. “Children have never been harassed even when two countries have had the worst of relationship,” an official was quoted as saying by Express tribune.

Pakistan had earlier this week asked High Commissioner to India, Sohail Mahmood to return home for an unspecified time after Pakistan alleged that its diplomats in India were being “harassed”. The move was downplayed by the Ministry of External Affairs as “routine”.

Pakistan had also accused the Indian officials of intimidating the children of a senior diplomat while they were on their way to school.

Indian officials said that the standoff was months old, when in May last year, Pakistani government “intermittently blocked Indian government websites in Pakistan” and “visa seekers faced trouble”.

After this, there were reports of power and gas supply being shut for the Indian diplomats in Islamabad.

There were even puerile tactics of harassment like door bells being rung late at night at the homes of diplomats in both the sides.

According to reports, Pakistan is weighing options to deal with the situation in the wake of calling back of its High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood from New Delhi due to alleged harassment of diplomats in India.

Mahmood arrived a day after the Foreign Office spokesman said that he was being summoned for consultation “due to non-stop harassment of families of the diplomats”.

Official sources in the foreign ministry said Mahmood will brief top officials about the situation and a decision to how address the situation would be taken after the consultations, said media reports.

Options on the table include declaring New Delhi as a non-family station and not sending back Mahmood for an indefinite period – till the situation improves, reported the Express Tribune.

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