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Mail spat Did Pakistan’s suspension of postal services to India break international rules?

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Suspension of postal services has never happened before, not even when the two countries were at war.

(Keystone / Nadeem Khawer)

Postal services between Pakistan and India have been suspended following renewed tensions over the autonomy of Kashmir. Is that allowed under rules set out by the Swiss-based Universal Postal Union? 

On August 27, Pakistan decided to suspend postal services with India. The move was in retaliation for India’s decision to rescind the special status of the border state of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5. This had never happened before, not even when the two countries were at war in 1965 and 1999.  

India claims the move is a violation of established norms. On Monday, India’s minister in charge of postal services, Ravi Shankar Prasad, said that India was forced to suspend postal services in return.  

“Pakistan's decision is directly in contravention of world postal union norms,” Prasad told the press. 

swissinfo.ch contacted the Universal Postal Unionexternal link (UPU) based in the Swiss capital Bern for clarity on the issue. The organisation is the United Nations agency that coordinates postal policies among member nations.  

“Member countries and their designated postal operators have the obligation to notify other member countries through the Universal Postal Union whenever postal services are temporarily suspended,” a spokesperson told swissinfo.ch. 

This means that countries are required to inform the UPU of the suspension, which then sends a message through its EmIS (Emergency message Information System), or via a circular letter notifying senior postal operators of the situation.  So far, Pakistan has not followed this procedure but that does not necessarily mean that it is contravening UPU rules.  

UPU guidelines state that its international bureau must only be contacted regarding suspended or resumed postal services “if a general announcement is considered necessary”. The word “necessary” is open to interpretation, meaning it’s up to Pakistan to decide if it is must officially notify the UPU to trigger a general announcement. And so far, Pakistan has shown itself content to not do so.  

The spat between the two South Asian countries is not the only problematic international postal conflict. In 2017, Qatar complained to the UPU about suspension of postal services on the part of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The temporary suspension is still ongoing. 


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