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Indian, Pakistani diplomats still confined to capitals

During Pranab Mukherjee's visit to Islamabad, the two countries agreed to permit diplomats to leave the confines of the capitals, reports Nilova Roy Chaudhury.

india Updated: Jan 29, 2007 20:54 IST

Appearances of bilateral bonhomie notwithstanding, Indian and Pakistani diplomats in Islamabad and New Delhi remain confined within the boundaries of either capital city. They cannot travel outside the capitals without special permission, sought in advance, despite an agreement reached a fortnight ago to expand their frontiers.

Pakistani diplomats in India are not permitted to travel to Noida or Gurgaon, while Indian diplomats are not allowed to visit Taxila or Hassan Abdal. Pakistan had also, in December, banned Indian diplomats from visiting Rawalpindi and Murree.

During External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's visit to Islamabad on January 13 and 14, the two countries agreed to permit diplomats to leave the confines of the capitals, and travel to these neighbouring cities.

Announcing the agreement, Mukherjee said, "We agreed to facilitate movement of diplomats to Noida and Gurgaon in India and Taxila and Hasan Abdal in Pakistan. Procedures for this will be worked out." He made the announcement during a joint press conference in Islamabad with Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmud Kasuri.

But a fortnight after the agreement, diplomats cannot travel to these places, senior officials in the Ministry of External Affairs said on Monday. They blamed Pakistan for not scrapping a ban imposed on Indian diplomats against travel to Islamabad's twin city, Rawalpindi and Murree. The ban was imposed in December 2006, "in violation of an informal arrangement" that allowed Indian diplomats to go to these towns, an official said.

Officials claim India never issued a ban on Pakistani diplomats from traveling outside Delhi. When the two countries had entered this informal agreement restricting the movement of each other's diplomats, over a decade ago, Noida and Gurgaon did not figure as destinations where people wanted to go.

Pakistani diplomats told HT they were still not allowed to travel to Noida or Gurgaon.

"The status quo remains," a Pakistani diplomat said.

The matter is likely to be resolved when Kasuri visits India on February 20, to co-chair the India-Pakistan Joint Commission meeting.

First Published: Jan 29, 2007 20:54 IST