Abdul Basit returns to Islamabad after India tenure

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Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit on Wednesday left for Islamabad after completing his turbulent three-year term that saw bilateral ties sink to a new low. Basit, who took premature retirement after he was bypassed for the post of Foreign Secretary and envoy to Washington, left the Indian capital in the afternoon. His request for early retirement was approved by then Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif late in July. Basit was among the top contenders for the Foreign Secretary slot when the then top Pakistani diplomat Aizaz Chaudhry was appointed the country's Ambassador in Washington. However, the post was handed to then UN envoy in Geneva Tehmina Janjua. A career diplomat, Sohail Mahmood, 55, will replace Basit in mid August. Mehmood's appointment comes at a time when the official dialogue between the two countries has been stalled due to India's concerns over cross-border terrorism. Basit was known to be close to Rawalpindi, the Pakistan military headquarters, and took several decisions that adversely affected bilateral ties. His decision to invite Hurriyat leaders often to the Pakistan High Commission led to derailment of bilateral talks, including the first Foreign Secretary-level talks in August 2014. His tenure also saw the conviction of Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav in Pakistan for alleged spying. Sharif, who was trying to build a rapport with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, was known to be unhappy at Basit over the talks getting stymied time and again. Incoming envoy Mehmood has not played any direct role in Pakistan's India policy so far and is expected to land in New Delhi without any baggage.