Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

Pakistan Suspends Exchange of Postal Mails


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Universal Postal Union (UPU)

Mains level : India-Pakistan relations in recent times

  • In a unilateral decision, Pakistan has stopped exchange of postal mails with India since August 27.
  • Pakistan’s decision was taken without any prior notice and is in direct contravention of international norms.

Who regulates postal exchange between one country and another?

  • The United Nations’ Universal Postal Union (UPU) frames rules for international mail exchange, and fixes rates for international postal services.
  • The UPU has 192 member-countries and is headquartered in Bern.
  • Constituted in 1874, the UPU has four units: the Congress, the Council of Administration, the International Bureau, and the Postal Operations Council.
  • It regulates 6.40 lakh postal outlets worldwide.
  • India joined the UPU on July 1, 1876 and Pakistan on November 10, 1947.

What has mail exchange between India and Pakistan been like?

  • Before Pakistan’s move, mailbags were being exchanged almost daily.
  • With no regular, direct flight connectivity between the two countries, mail was being routed through the Saudi Arabia air route.
  • In India, all international posts are handled through the 28 Foreign Post Offices, with those in Delhi and Mumbai designated to handle mails for Pakistan.
  • The mailbags of both countries were exchanged at airports after a customs check.
  • Other than the UPU, three agreements cover postal exchange between India and Pakistan — Exchange of Value Payable Article, 1948; Exchange of Postal Article, 1974; and International Speed Post Agreement, 1987.

Can one UPU member-country unilaterally stop postal exchange with another?

  • Under UPU rules, when a country decides to suspend exchange with a country, it must notify the operator of the other country and if possible, the duration for which services is being stopped.
  • The UPU’s International Bureau too has to be notified.
  • The International Bureau issued a Convention Manual in 2018, in which Article 17-143 details ‘Steps to be taken in Event of Temporary Suspension and Resumption of Services’.
  • If services are temporarily suspended, the designated operator concerned must be notified of the fact by telecommunications, indicating, if possible, the probable duration of the suspension of services.
  • The same procedure shall be applied when the suspended services are resumed,” the Manual reads.
  • According to the three bilateral agreements between India and Pakistan, too, a prior notice has to be served before suspending services, sources in India Post said.

So, did Pakistan skip the UPU protocol?

  • India was not given prior notice when Pakistan suspended postal exchange.
  • Even two months later, India is yet to receive a direct communication.
  • Pakistan only handed over a copy of an internal order to airline operators, which handed them to Indian representatives.
  • On August 23, the customs and postal departments of Pakistan issued an internal order stopping postal exchange with India and handed its copy it to airlines.
  • India is also unaware if Pakistan has notified the UPU about suspension of postal service with India.
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