Thursday, January 23, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Four Pak Mission staffers expelled
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 22
Against the backdrop of Pakistan’s continuing diplomatic terrorism, India today gave a subtle message by expelling four staffers of the Pakistan High Commission here, including two diplomats, and asked Islamabad to withdraw the four persona non grata (PNG) within 48 hours.

Well-placed sources in the Vajpayee government said the government could take some more tough measures if Islamabad continued to harass India’s Charge d’ Affaires (CDA) at Pakistan, Mr Sudhir Vyas, who became a victim of Islamabad’s diplomatic terrorism yet again today.

Pakistan-watchers here said Islamabad was certain to match the Indian action and expel an equal number of staffers in the Indian High Commission in Pakistan, if not more. The Pakistani diplomatic retaliation is expected immediately.

The Ministry of External Affairs today announced that Pakistan’s Consular here, Mr Mansoor Saeed Sheikh, First Secretary Mian Muhammad Arif and non-diplomat staffers, Mr Muhammad Tasneem Khan and Mr Sher Mohammad, were found indulging in activities “incompatible with their official status” (a diplomatic euphemism for espionage) and had been declared PNG. This was conveyed to the Pakistani CDA Jalil Abbas Jilani who was summoned to the foreign office here.

Sources in the MEA said the meeting between Mr Jilani and MEA officials was frosty and lasted barely 15-20 minutes. During this meeting, Mr Jilani did not speak much except for denying the Indian charges.

With the expulsion of four Pakistani High Commission staffers, the strength of the Pakistani mission has been reduced to 51. India at present has 55 staffers in its High Commission in Islamabad. After the terrorist attack on Parliament, the strength of Indian and Pakistani diplomatic missions in each other country had been halved.

The sources said the most important fallout of the Sudhir Vyas episode was that the diplomatic ties between India and Pakistan were back to square one and the Indian move to once again upgrade Indo-Pak diplomatic ties to the level of High Commissioner had received a setback. Last year India had planned to once again upgrade its High Commission in Pakistan and had even identified a seasoned diplomat, Mr Harsh Bhasin, for posting in Pakistan as High Commissioner.

It is understood that India is going to take up the matter of Pakistan’s “unwarranted, unacceptable and unprecedented” diplomatic unruliness at various international fora in the coming days.

Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani, who returns here on January 25 after his two-nation tour of Qatar and France, is scheduled to visit Malaysia in the immediate future. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is also scheduled to visit Malaysia next month to attend the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit. The Pakistan issue may well be taken up by Mr Vajpayee and Mr Advani in Malaysia.

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