India and its principal strategic partner in Europe - France have decided to expand its collaboration against Pakistan-based extremism and terrorism both through bilateral means as well as multilateral forums amid threats to expel French envoy from Islamabad by mid-February over the cartoon controversy.

France during the recent visit of its NSA to Delhi indicated that Paris will put an end to exports of critical defence items to Pakistan Army and decided to widen counter-terror & extremism partnership with India, ET has reliably learnt.

Islamabad-Paris ties will be further tested in a few weeks as PM Imran Khan has to decide on his earlier promise of expelling French envoy in the backdrop of cartoons over the Prophet. It may be recalled that India was the first country to back the French President following criticisms levelled by Pakistan and Turkey over cartoons. Paris and New Delhi have decided to expand their information-sharing mechanism and increase coordination between their law enforcement agencies to effectively counter-terror network globally, ET has learnt.

The Pakistani authorities by February 17 has to decide on their commitment made with the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in mid-November to expel the French ambassador stationed in Islamabad, failing which, TLP has threatened to launch a protest march in the Pak capital.

“We are required to honour the agreement [with the Pakistani government] until February 17th. A war to [protect] the honour of the Prophet is engaged. If there is a misunderstanding, it must be cleared up as we are committed to ensuring that there is no delay in executing our decision after February 17th. If you forgot your promise, see our story. Now we are more ready to die for the honour of the Prophet. You have until February 17 to expel the French ambassador,” demanded Maulana Saad Rizvi, recently appointed leader of the TLP, on January 4 during a large rally organized in Lahore.

In the 2018 Pak elections TLP failed to win a single seat in the National Assembly. But managed to attract a significant number of voters behind his radical banner - more than two million voters, or 2% of the total votes cast, making it - arithmetically speaking - the fifth political party in the country.