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US reminds ‘platform for terrorism’ of promise

Karachi/New Delhi, Jan. 23: An element of the unexpected was injected amid the expected tit-for-tat expulsions between India and Pakistan with the US bluntly asking Islamabad to end its use as “a platform for terrorism”.

“The government of Pakistan must ensure its pledges are implemented to prevent infiltration across the Line of Control and end the use of Pakistan as a platform for terrorism,” said Nancy Powell, US ambassador to Pakistan.

“I cannot overstate the importance of all parties working to end the culture of violence that afflicts Kashmir,” Powell told a lunch meeting of top businessmen at the American Business Council in Karachi.

Powell said tension has reduced between the two countries and forces withdrawn from the international border because of international diplomatic efforts.

“We continue to look for ways to encourage peace in Kashmir. One important step could be a ceasefire along the LoC,” she added.

Pakistan later said Powell was “probably misquoted”, adding that the US “should exert pressure on India to sit at a dialogue table for resolution of outstanding issues, including the core issue of Kashmir”.

Despite Powell’s appeal for steps to ease tension, the neighbours showed no sign of let-up with Islamabad today reciprocating New Delhi by expelling three Indian diplomats and an official at the high commission in the Pakistani capital.

The decision came a day after India expelled two diplomats and two officials of the Pakistani high commission in New Delhi on charges of violating diplomatic norms.

A Pakistan foreign ministry statement ordered the four Indian officials to leave within 48 hours and said they had been declared “persona non grata” for involvement in activities incompatible with their status — diplomatic code for spying.

India’s charge d’affaires in Islamabad, Sudhir Vyas — whose complaint of repeated harassment triggered the latest round of expulsions — was summoned to the Pakistani foreign office this afternoon and informed of the decision to expel the four.

“It is a clear-cut act of retaliation to the well-considered decision of the Government of India in respect of their consular staff,” an Indian foreign ministry spokesman said in Delhi.

The expelled officials are counsellor Vipin Handa, second secretary R.P Singh, second secretary Vakil Ramdas and staff member P.H. Sundaram. Their families have been given seven days to leave the country.

The Pakistani decision brings parity in the number of staffers in both the high commissions, which now stands at 51 each. Diplomatic representation of the two countries was halved last year after India recalled its ambassador to Islamabad in response to the attack on Parliament in December 2001.

Sarna said other Indian officials like expelled counsellor Handa were also subjected to regular harassment by Pakistani sleuths in Islamabad.

“All manner of unprecedented methods and measures were used. The Indian counsellor and his family members were harassed for several months by Pakistani intelligence operatives,” the spokesman said.

He added that Handa “is being closely tailed. He is being followed into restaurants and shops. His family has been subjected to tremendous mental tension.”

“This is harassment which is entirely not in keeping with diplomatic courtesies nor with diplomatic conventions, both bilateral and international,” the spokesman added.

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