The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘Handcuffs & blindfold’ on diplomat

Aug. 5: The tit-for-tat expulsions on either side of the border today resumed after a lull with Pakistan throwing out a senior Delhi diplomat and India promptly returning the compliment.

Deepak Kaul, consular section in-charge of the Indian high commission in Islamabad, was intercepted on a highway, allegedly handcuffed, blindfolded and kept in detention before being handed a 48-hour quit notice.

According to the expulsion order, he “was found involved in activities incompatible with his diplomatic status”. Some “sensitive documents” were allegedly found on him.

In retaliation, India declared Syed Mohd. Rafiq Ahmed, counsellor (political) at the Pakistan high commission in New Delhi, persona non grata and asked him to leave the country by Monday.

This is possibly the first eye-for-an-eye expulsion since the composite dialogue process began in January 2004. It could trigger a further souring of bilateral ties, already rattled by allegations of Pakistan’s hand in the Mumbai blasts.

This morning, Kaul was on his way to Amritsar to pick up his family when his car was stopped by Pakistani intelligence men on the Islamabad-Lahore highway. Agencies said he had stopped for tea at a kiosk when he was arrested around 7.30 am.

“A group of about eight to nine people pounced on him, handcuffed him and took him to an undisclosed location blindfolded and kept him there for five hours,” PTI quoted Indian officials as saying in Islamabad.

Kaul was handed over later to Indian diplomats who were summoned to the foreign office. They were told Kaul was persona non grata and would have to be withdrawn by early next week.

The Indian mission in Islamabad dismissed the allegations against Kaul — he has been in Islamabad since September 2003 — as “a contrived issue and insinuation”.

“Kaul had secured permission from the ministry of foreign affairs but the way he was intercepted, handcuffed and bundled into another car is mind-boggling,” a senior mission official said.

Deputy high commissioner T.C.A. Raghavan told The Telegraph a protest had been lodged against the outrageous treatment meted out to Kaul.

Pakistan foreign office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam denied Kaul had been manhandled. “We don’t handcuff diplomats…. The allegations are not true and we reject this.”

Aslam also rued the “retaliatory expulsion” by India. “We wanted him to be withdrawn quietly,” she said.

“The Indians had agreed not to publicise the matter, but... leaked the story to the press.... We were abiding by the understanding but then found the news everywhere. If we had wanted to propagate the matter, we could have taken the lead in doing so.”

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