Friday, December 21, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

India may curtail Pakistan High Commission strength
Frequency of Samjhauta Express may be reduced
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 20
The Vajpayee government is understood to be contemplating telling Pakistan to reduce the number of its diplomats and staffers from its High Commission here.

The move, being debated at the level of the top political leadership, may reduce the strength of the Pakistan High Commission here by almost half, if implemented, well-placed sources said today.

There are several reasons for considering the move, sources pointed out. Operationally, it would come in as a help to the security agencies in their counter-terrorist measures as a large number of undercover ISI agents in the garb of diplomats are believed to be in touch with elements and indulging in activities which are inimical to Indian national interests.

Diplomatically, it will attract international attention as the Pakistan Government will retaliate in a similar manner. This will obviously send a signal that a flashpoint situation has erupted in the Indian subcontinent which, in turn, will lead to increased international pressure on Pakistan to rein in terrorist outfits operating from its soil.

The Vajpayee government is also believed to be under increasing pressure to take concrete steps immediately to convey a strong message to Pakistan in the wake of the December 13 attack on Parliament House.

One such step could be reducing the frequency of the Samjhauta Express running between the two countries, sources said.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s military ruler Pervez Musharraf has asked his officials to win over the media in their country and use it to launch an anti-India campaign.

According to diplomatic sources here, on instructions of General Musharraf, teams of the ISI, the Ministry of Information and Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) have visited a number of newspaper offices and senior editors, advising them to write articles in an attempt to counter Indian media reports holding Pakistan responsible for the December 13 attack.

The instructions were issued by General Musharraf on December 17 after pressure from world leaders blaming Pakistan for the attack.

On ISI instructions, Pakistan’s official news agency has already filed a story datelined Kabul accusing India of airlifting 110 Pakistani Taliban in a special Indian Air Force plane from Bagram airport to New Delhi. Official sources here have dismissed this report as “baseless”.

Pakistani newspapers have also come out with editorials accusing India of masterminding the Parliament House attack and putting the blame on Pakistan.

Meanwhile, 140 Saudi families are stranded on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and the Saudi embassy is making efforts to bring them back as they are the women and children of terrorists who had fought in Afghanistan on behalf of the Al-Qaida.Back

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