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Returning favours

india Updated: Aug 08, 2006 19:15 IST
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Both India and Pakistan have ensured time and again that they remain constantly engaged over one thing or the other. It's another matter that the engagement might not pertain to weighty issues!

As it is the peace process has hit a rock bottom post 11/7 and with the recent expulsion of diplomats, the two neighbours -- fighting tooth-and-nail for peace -- couldn't have asked for more!

Pakistan and India each expelled a senior diplomat on Saturday for indulging in "undesirable activities" incompatible with their diplomatic status. They were declared persona non grata.

"No one is surprised, but a lot of well-meaning people on both sides will worry about how the two governments will handle the tit-for-tat they have started," a Daily Times editorial said.

Deepak Kaul, a visa counsellor at the Islamabad mission, was handcuffed, blindfolded and interrogated for five hours, which according to New Delhi is a blatant violation of the Geneva Convention.

India lost no time in declaring Syed Mohd Rafiq Ahmed, Islamabad's political counsellor in New Delhi, persona non grata, asking him to leave.

So-called "tit-for-tat" exchanges have occurred notably during the Cold War.

Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (Article 9), a receiving state may "at any time and without having to explain its decision" declare any member of a diplomatic staff persona non grata.

In diplomatic parlance, a person declared persona non grata is considered unacceptable and if not recalled, the receiving state may refuse to recognise him as a member of the mission.

"New Delhi has responded with unholy but familiar haste, finding Mr Kaul's counterpart at the Pakistan High Commission...guilty of spying activity," said the Daily Times.

There is nothing fresh in the developments that have taken place in the context of India, Pakistan relations, but the moot point is that the two neighbours are doing everything, they ought not be doing.

The Kashmir question remains without an answer till date. Ditto with Siachen or Tulbul navigation project.

"The expulsion of diplomats has cast a shadow over the bilateral ties already strained in the aftermath of the Mumbai blasts...South Asian neighbours should stop bickering in public and try to resolve longstanding disputes over Kashmir and other issues," The Nation daily said.

For Daily Times, this "tit-for-tat pantomime" is another way of expressing "bilateral anger". In the past, such acts have been used for diplomatic signalling.

India's singling out Pakistan-based terrorist groups for creating havoc in its territory has never been to the liking of the establishment in Islamabad. Neither has Pakistan's accusation of an Indian hand in Balochistan been accepted here.

"Just what Islamabad is saying may not be clear right now. But the action has certainly put paid the optimism that had arisen from recent meetings between the foreign secretaries in Dhaka," said an editorial in Hindustan Times.

The last such incident of expulsion of diplomats between the two countries was in February 2003 when India sent home Pakistan's then Charge D'Affairs Jalil Abbas Jilani and four other diplomats after allegedly finding them involved in financing separatists in Jammu and Kashmir.

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