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Pakistan Expels Indian Diplomats - 2003-01-23

Pakistan has announced it is expelling four Indian Embassy officials, a day after India expelled four Pakistani officials. Pakistan ordered the Indian officials to leave within 48 hours.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry says three Indian diplomats and an embassy official have been asked to leave the country.

The ministry statement accuses the four men of indulging in "activities incompatible with their status," which in diplomatic terms means spying. Indian officials in New Delhi reject the charges as "entirely baseless."

On Wednesday, New Delhi ordered two senior Pakistani diplomats and two officials to leave India within 48 hours, after accusing them of violating diplomatic norms.

In recent days, the two South Asian rival nations have accused each other's security agencies of harassing diplomats, both in New Delhi and Islamabad. These accusations are routine, as are the regular expulsions of diplomats and embassy staff on spying charges.

Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmen Khan accuses India of initiating moves he says are aimed at increasing tension.

"It's unfortunate that India has consistently been taking actions, which have not helped the situation at all," he said. "In fact, they have tried to increase tension, exacerbate the situation, … and this has been going on for a long time."

Retired Pakistani army general and analyst Talat Masood, say the blame lies with both countries, and that the latest moves are likely to increase tensions between India and Pakistan.

"It means worsening of relations. It means that they are not in a mood to initiate any dialogue in the near future," he said. "They think that this policy of theirs is probably paying dividends domestically, and they just want to maintain this cold war status."

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947. Their dispute over the divided region of Kashmir remains a major source of tensions. India accuses Pakistan of sending armed militants to fuel an insurgency in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir. Pakistan denies the charges.

Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to Islamabad Nancy Powell asked Pakistan on Thursday to prevent the infiltration of militants into Indian Kashmir, and end the use of Pakistan as a "platform for terrorism."

In a speech to American business representatives in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, Ambassador Powell reiterated that the United States wants to encourage peace between India and Pakistan.