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'Pak limits Indian diplomats' movements'

According to a Pak TV channel report its Govt has restricted the movements of Islamabad-based Indian diplomats, reports Vinod Sharma.

india Updated: Dec 17, 2006 00:58 IST

The Pakistan government has restricted the movements of Islamabad-based Indian diplomats in an apparent tit-for-tat action, a Pakistani TV channel reported on Saturday.

But sources in the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi said the Indian High Commission in Islamabad has received no word on the reported move of the Pak Foreign Office.

They maintained the issue was discussed at the November 13-14 Foreign Secretary level talks between Shivshankar Menon and Riaz Mohammad Khan.

In return for lifting restrictions on Pakistan officials’ movements beyond Delhi’s municipal limits - to Gurgaon in Haryana and Noida in Uttar Pradesh - New Delhi had sought access to places in addition to Murree and Rawalpindi, the Pakistan capital’s veritable twin-city that is popular for bargain shopping.

A senior MEA official said Indian diplomats had permission to travel to Rawalpindi as part of an arrangement dating back to days when Islamabad was developing and it was difficult to "even get a loaf of bread" in its municipal confines.

Likewise, India has a rented property at the nearby hill resort of Murree where resident and visiting diplomats stay during short visits.

Quoting the Pak Foreign Office, Geo TV confirmed that negotiations happened between the two countries for allowing access to Pakistani diplomats to Noida and Gurgaon, where some among them held memberships of a golf club.

But MEA sources contested the TV channel’s suggestion that Indian restrictions covered the Indira Gandhi International Airport. “That’s factually incorrect. The airport is within the limits of Delhi,” they said. 

The standoff on an issue that can be easily resolved does not augur well for External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s mid-January visit to Islamabad to invite the Pakistani leadership to the SAARC Summit in India next year.

The visit could also offer an opportunity for regular talks between Mukherjee and his Pakistan counterpart, Khurshid Kasuri. 

Email Vinod Sharma: vinodsharma@hindustantimes.com