Amidst all the turmoil and hostility between India and Pakistan, Indian officials on Friday said that the Pakistan government had blocked access to all Indian government websites ending with .gov or .in since May 2017.
Officials of the South Block stated that the Indian government had opened only alternating websites since 2017 in Pakistan. The officials added that as many as 5 note verbale (a form of diplomatic communication) were issued to Pakistan so that they do not block the access to Indian government website.
The Indian officials told a leading daily that the first note verbale was issued on May 18, 2017, while the latest vebrale was issued earlier this week.
The impact of the blocking is felt by visa-seekers in Pakistan as they are unable to fill up the form online. Indian officials said that they had taken up the matter with Islamabad at least five times in the last nine months but to no response.
The matter has been taken up again by the Indian government as a fresh row of turmoil has broken out between the countries over allegations of harassment of diplomats and their families in the recent weeks.
Sources added that the elite class in Pakistan are using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and proxy servers to ignore the censors and access the Indian government websites.
A top official said, “We have been constantly communicating with Pakistani authorities about access to these websites. These (websites) may be useful for students or professionals who want information about India. But this information block has been continuing for the last nine months.”
The South Block, which monitor’s the moves of Islamabad, has been getting calls and emails from Pakistani nationals complaining about the problem and the difficulties they are facing in accessing the Indian government websites. The source said, “We have politely told them that it is their own government’s doing, and that they should also take it up with their agencies.”
The Indian High Commission in Islamabad has also complained about its staff facing incidents of harassment over the last few weeks. Reports of cases of ‘intrusive surveillance’ have been put forward.
A source of the South Block has taken a ‘conscious decision’ to not release any videos and photographs of alleged harassment of the country’s staff, after the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi released some of them.
The Indian government has asked its diplomats, their families, and diplomatic staff to use vehicles only with diplomatic number-plates and not their private numbers.
India had asked Pakistan on Thursday to ensure the safety and security of the Indian diplomats and families which were living in Islamabad.
The whole case started on the night of February 15, when some Pakistani agency officials entered the under-construction residential complex of High Commission in Islamabad and allegedly ‘harassed’ the workers there. The Indian side had reacted strongly to this.