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Diplomatic Dispute Between India and Pakistan Eases Slightly - 2003-02-18

India and Pakistan are replacing senior diplomats expelled by the two countries recently. But the move does not signal a thaw in the icy relations between the South Asian rivals.

Indian foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said diplomats from India and Pakistan have been granted visas to take up the posts of deputy ambassadors in the high commissions of both countries.

Earlier this month, India expelled Pakistan's deputy ambassador in New Delhi for allegedly funneling funds to separatists in Indian Kashmir - a charge he denied. Pakistan retaliated by telling his Indian counterpart in Islamabad to leave.

The deputy ambassadors were the seniormost diplomats in the embassies, which have been without ambassadors since last year.

Despite the appointment of new diplomats, there is no other sign that tensions are easing.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will be attending the Non-Aligned summit being in Malaysia next week, but Indian Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal ruled out the possibility of a private meeting between the two.

"No. They are not going to meet. It is as simple as that," Mr. Sibal said.

There has been no dialogue between the two countries since an attack on India's parliament by Muslim militants in December 2001 brought them close to war.

The two leaders exchanged a brief handshake at a regional summit in Nepal in January 2002, but avoided each other at an Asian summit in Kazakhstan last June.

Pakistan has said it is willing to open talks with India to resolve their differences, but India said it will not resume a dialogue unless Islamabad ends support to what New Delhi calls "cross-border terrorism."

On Monday, Indian president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam accused Pakistan of not meeting pledges to stop infiltration of Muslim militants into Indian Kashmir. He told lawmakers at the opening session of parliament that gestures of friendship by India had been met with "hatred and violence" from Islamabad.

"Unfortunately Pakistan has consistently responded to our efforts with hatred and violence, sponsoring and actively supporting a sustained campaign of cross-border terrorism," Mr. Kalam said. Pakistan rejected the accusation, saying there is no infiltration by Muslim militants from its territory into Kashmir.