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Ties hit new low as India, Pakistan expel diplomats

Tit for tat expulsions add fresh tension to bilateral ties that dipped in wake of 11/7, reports Nilova Roy Chaudhury.

india Updated: Aug 09, 2006 17:19 IST
Nilova Roy Chaudhury
Nilova Roy Chaudhury

Pakistan and India each expelled a senior diplomat on Saturday for indulging in “undesirable activities incompatible with their diplomatic status” -a euphemism for spying.

Deepak Kaul, a visa counselor at the Islamabad mission, was detained around 7.30 am while on his way to the Wagah border to receive family members.

He was handcuffed, blindfolded (“hooded”), and interrogated for five hours. Then he was told to leave Pakistan within 48 hours.

India retaliated by declaring Syed Mohd Rafiq Ahmed, Islamabad’s political counselor in New Delhi, persona non grata, asking him to leave.

Deputy High Commissioner Afrasiab was summoned by the MEA and issued a demarché (formal diplomatic note), protesting the “outrageous treatment” meted out to Kaul. “Such action could not but undermine the bilateral relations,” an official statement said.

The expulsions indicated the apparent futility of the Indo-Pak peace process, started in January 2004. A series of terrorist strikes, culminating in last month’s serial bombing in Mumbai, put the process under “enormous strain”, said officials.

Though foreign secretary Shyam Saran met his counterpart Riaz Mohd Khan in Dhaka on Monday and promised to remain engaged, the fact that no dates were set for a meeting to review the process indicated a cooling down.

An MEA statement said that in the meeting with Afrasiab, joint secretary Dilip Sinha rejected allegations regarding Kaul. “(He) was not in possession of any sensitive documents allegedly handed over to him by a so-called contact. These must have obviously been planted on him in order to falsely implicate him,” it said.

Kaul is now safe and will likely return to India by Monday.

First Published: Aug 06, 2006 01:48 IST