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CROSSING BOUNDS

Indiaís relations with Pakistan are reaching a point of crisis once again. With the expulsion from India of Pakistanís charge díaffaires, Mr Jalil Abbas Jilani, and the removal by Islamabad of the Indian CDA, Mr Sudhir Vyas, diplomatic relations are at their worst since the 1971 war. Before December 2002, the two embassies in New Delhi and Islamabad had 110 officials, including diplomats. After the terrorist attack on the Indian parliament on December 13 last year, India withdrew Mr Vijay Nambiar, its high commissioner, from Islamabad, cut its staff strength by 50 per cent and asked Pakistan to similarly scale down its staff in its mission in New Delhi. Pakistanís high commissioner, Mr Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, however, continued to serve in the Indian capital until the terrorist attack on the army camp at Kaluchak last summer. It was only then that South Block declared him to be persona non grata.

More recently, in January this year, India and Pakistan had another tit-for-tat round of expulsions, soon after the Indian CDA, Mr Vyas, was severely harassed by Pakistani security agencies in Islamabad. Each of the two embassies now has a little over 40 officials, and they are headed by diplomats of the rank of political counsellor. In recent memory, diplomatic ties have rarely dipped so low. Although India, while expelling Mr Jilani, has claimed that it did not intend to downgrade relations and would be ready to give a visa to a new CDA, this is unlikely to happen. Disquiet with Pakistan is increasing within the country as it is internationally. The prime minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vaj- payee, in his address at the chief ministersí conference, was uncharacteristically strident in his attack on Pakistan. Mr Vajpayee asserted that not only was Pakistan continuing its proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir, there was considerable evidence to suggest that parts of Nepal and Bangladesh were being used by the Inter-Services Intelligence for anti-India activities.

Although there are those who would argue that domestic politics, especially the forthcoming elections to the state assemblies, is dictating the governmentís Pakistan policy, the Pakistan high commissionís role in promoting subversive activities in India is beyond doubt. Even before Mr Jilani was accused of providing funds to two Hurriyat activists, there was considerable evidence to prove that the Pakistan high commission was providing funds and direction to separatist groups within Jammu and Kashmir. In many ways, Indiaís decision to expel Pakistanís CDA is also reflective of its continuing frustration with its own Pakistan policy. Neither dialogue, nor coercive diplomacy, nor even international pressure seems to have persuaded Pakistan to give up its anti-India policies. It seems unlikely, of course, that the expulsion of Pakistani officials will lead to any substantial change in Islamabadís way, but it will send a signal to the world that Indiaís patience is once again reaching its limits.

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