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 Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 12:33 GMT
Pakistan expels Indian diplomats
Security forces outside Pakistan mission in Delhi
Relations between the nations have plummeted again
Pakistan is expelling four members of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.

It accused the officials of behaviour unbecoming of a diplomat, a reference usually made to spying.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry announced the move on Thursday, a day after India had given four members of the Pakistani mission in Delhi two days to leave the country.

The two nuclear powers, which have fought three wars since 1947, have often expelled each other's diplomats.

Personnel cut

A Pakistani Foreign Ministry statement said: "Reciprocating the Indian decision to cut down the strength of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi to 51 personnel, the government of Pakistan has also decided to apply the same staff ceiling on the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.''

Indian soldiers on patrol in Delhi
The row comes as India prepares for Sunday's Republic Day

India immediately criticised Pakistan's actions.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said: "It is a clear-cut act of retaliation to the well-considered decision of the government of India in respect of their consular staff."

Three of the Indians expelled are diplomats and one a commission official.

They have been told to leave Pakistan by Saturday.

According to the Associated Press agency, the four Indian officials are:

  • Vipin Handa, consular officer
  • Vakil Ramdas, attache
  • RP Singh, second secretary
  • P Sundram, position unidentified

    On Wednesday, India expelled two high-ranking Pakistani diplomats and two other officials.

    India's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Navtej Sarna, said the four were found "indulging in activities incompatible with their official status".

    Those expelled were named as: Muzaffar Sayeed, a senior councillor, Mohammed Asif, first secretary and Mohammed Khan and Sher Mohammed, both staff officers.

    Permission sought

    The Pakistani Deputy High Commissioner in Delhi, Jalil Abbas, had earlier called India's expulsions ''harsh''.

    Pakistani High Commission in Delhi
    Pakistan called Delhi's expulsions "harsh"

    Pakistan is seeking permission for its expelled diplomats to travel home overland.

    Pakistan's air space remains closed to Indian aircraft, which means diplomatic officials wanting to fly would have to travel via Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

    The first expulsions followed Delhi's allegation that its most senior diplomat in Islamabad had been harassed by the Pakistani authorities.

    Sudhir Vyas had said that whenever he tried to leave his home, he would be boxed in by Pakistani agents in their cars.

    Formal protest

    Pakistan has also alleged that its diplomats in Delhi are the victims of harassment.

    Mr Aziz said Pakistan had lodged a formal protest in writing on 7 January.

    However, he said: ''We did not release this information to the media because we wished to keep the atmosphere free of tension.''

    The two countries have regularly expelled each other's diplomats, usually alleging that they were spying.

    India recalled its ambassador to Islamabad in response to an attack on its parliament in December 2001 by Islamic militants.

    It expelled Pakistan's ambassador last May as the nations came close to war.

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    22 Jan 03 | South Asia
    21 Jan 03 | South Asia
    20 Jan 03 | South Asia
    13 Jan 03 | South Asia
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