India halts all trade, orders Pakistanis out

NEW DELHI: The Pakistani nationals in Bikaner, Rajasthan have been asked to leave within 48 hours, as tensions soar between the two countries in the aftermath of the last week’s attack in Pulwama.

According to the Indian media, a district magistrate in Rajasthan’s Bikaner city has prohibited hotels and lodges in the district from allowing Pakistani citizens to check in.

The Indian citizens have been asked not to employ any Pakistani citizens and not to have any direct or indirect business relationships with the neighbouring country, the order stated. “No citizen through any medium of telecommunication will exchange in any kind of military or sensitive information to unknown persons. Any person of Bikaner district will not use SIM cards registered in Pakistan,” according to the order.

The order is applicable for two months, but would not be applicable to Pakistani citizens who have registered with the foreigners registration officer, the district administration said. Meanwhile, a private TV channel reported that around 300 trucks carrying cement, one of Pakistan’s major exports to India, on Tuesday were stuck at the Wagah border after duties were suddenly increased by 200%. This made importing them very expensive or nearly impossible. Shipments of 170 containers by sea also came to a grinding halt. The Indian market accounts for a quarter of Pakistan’s total cement exports. In the last financial year, Pakistan sold $23 million worth of cement to India. Fruit and vegetable exporters will also bear the brunt of the reaction since they exported $41 million worth of produce.

Meanwhile, reacting to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s comments on the attack, Indian Defence Minister Sitharaman criticised Pakistan for seeking proof of its alleged involvement in Pulwama terror attack and said it was India which has been providing ‘evidence’ but the neighbouring country hadbut the neighbouring country had not taken any action.

The defence minister said she would not want to say how the government was going to respond to it as no word was sufficient enough to assuage the anger and disappointment of every person of the country.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already allowed the Indian Army to respond at any given time and as they see fit,” Sitharaman said.

On the defence forces’ morale following the Pulwama terror attack, Sitharaman said, “The morale is not affected at all, they are absolutely ready to do their job. The response the people of India have shown has brought greater motivation to them,” she said.

Asked what the government was doing to avoid a repeat of Pulwama type attacks, Sitharamana said India was gathering more information to prevent any such incidents in future.

“The security agencies are working tirelessly to gather more information from the ground. Every effort will be taken to prevent any future incidents such as Pulwama terror attack,” she said.

In a related development, Pakistan will not participate in the shooting World Cup in New Delhi after a top official of the national federation confirmed Tuesday that its marksmen had not been issued visas by the Indian High Commission.

“We were supposed to fly out by Wednesday morning as the championship begins from Thursday but we were not issued visas today so the visit is as good as off,” Pakistan’s National Rifle Shooting Federation (NSRF) President Razi Ahmed told PTI.

“I was a bit worried about getting visas after the Pulwama incident and our fears have come true. It is disappointing that our shooters will not get a chance to try to qualify for the Olympic Games,” Razi said.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Tuesday said the Indian peremptory order for visiting Pakistanis to leave Rajasthan in 48 hours was a condemnable reflection of their jingoism and hate-mongering and also exposed sham façade of Indian hospitality and tourism friendliness.

“Indian peremptory order for visiting Pakistanis to leave Rajasthan in 48 hrs and prohibiting hotels from accommodating them is a condemnable reflection of Indian jingoism and hate mongering spurred on by election histrionics. It also exposes sham façade of Indian hospitality and its tourism friendliness,” Foreign Office Spokesman Dr. Mohammad Faisal said in a Tweet posted on his twitter handle.

“We expect India to comply with inter-state norms & ensure absolute safety and security of all Pakistanis there,” the spokesman added.

In another related development, Pakistan Tuesday lodged a strong protest with India on the safety and security of its High Commission as well as the officers/officials and their families in New Delhi.

Special Secretary (Asia Pacific) Imtiaz Ahmad summoned Acting Indian High Commissioner Gaurav Ahluwalia on Tuesday to lodge a strong protest against the anti-Pakistan demonstration on Monday, where protestors were allowed to reach and jolt the gate of the Pakistan House despite the presence of Indian security officials.

It was underscored that despite a strong protest to the Indian government, acts of harassment targeting the Pakistani High Commission, Pakistan House, and the officers/officials of the High Commission and their families continued, including abusive calls to the Pakistan High Commission’s helpline, a Foreign Office (FO) statement said.

The special secretary reiterated Pakistan’s demand to the Indian government for a comprehensive, immediate investigation of this serious breach of security, taking foolproof measures for safety and security of the Pakistan House, High Commission and its officers/officials and their families in New Delhi, and ensuring that such incidents do not recur, the statement concluded.

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