M A I N   N E W S

India, Pak expel diplomats
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 5
Pakistan today expelled a key Indian diplomat in the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, Counsellor (Consular) Mr Deepak Kaul, on charges of espionage. New Delhi quickly paid back in the same coin, expelling a Pakistani diplomat here of the same rank, Syed Mohammed Rafiq Ahmed on similar charges.

Pakistan dubbed the Indian diplomat a persona non grata (PNG) and asked him to leave the country in 48 hours. India was forced to play the customary tit-for-tat game to prevent loss of face diplomatically.

Mr Dilip Sinha, Joint Secretary (PAI division), MEA, summoned Pakistanís Deputy High Commissioner Afrasiab to the Foreign Office and told him that Mr Rafiq Ahmed had been indulging in activities disconsonant with his official position and therefore the Government of India had declared him a PNG.

Mr Sinha also told Mr Afrasiab that India rejected all allegations Islamabad had levelled against Mr Kaul and told the envoy that the Pakistani conduct was ďa blatant violationĒ of the Vienna Convention as well as Code of Conduct of Diplomatic personnel between India and Pakistan, 1992.

The Ministry of External Affairs said Mr Kaul had left Islamabad for Amritsar by road early this morning to fetch his family. He had obtained written permission for the same from the Pakistani Foreign Office. When he was still 90 km away from Lahore, Pakistani security personnel intercepted him. Mr Kaul was then hooded, handcuffed and subjected to interrogation for five hours before his release at the Foreign Office.

This correspondent understands that Mr Kaul was accused of hobnobbing with anti-Pakistani elements that are fanning trouble in Baluchistan. Islamabad deliberately chose Mr Kaul because the post that Mr Kaul held - Counsellor (Consular) - is the only diplomatic post that gives unhindered access to its occupant to officially interact with citizens of Pakistan without attracting suspicion. Holder of this post in a country like Pakistan is kept bogged down so much in official work that he is hardly left with any time to even think of indulging in espionage.

The timing of the Pakistani action is important. It has come at a time when it knows that India would, sooner or later, officially announce a Pakistani connection to the July 11 Mumbai blasts. Islamabadís move is largely pre-emptive which entitles the Pakistani establishment to the argument that after the sudden souring of diplomatic relations, the Indian side is indulging in witch-hunting.

Incidentally, the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Mr Richard Boucher, who is already in India, is due to have important meetings with Ministry of External Affairs officials on August 7 where the issue of Pakistanís continued support to India-centric terror activities was bound to come up even otherwise.

There are no signs as of now that the sudden frostiness in Indo-Pak ties would match the scale witnessed nearly five years ago in the aftermath of December 2001 terrorist attack on Indian Parliament. 




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