Pakistan, India expel diplomats

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistan on Saturday expelled an Indian diplomat it said it had caught with "sensitive documents," and India responded by ordering out a Pakistani diplomat, in a setback to the nuclear-armed rivals' shaky peace process.

Pakistan and India often have expelled each other's diplomats over spying allegations. But Saturday's expulsions were the first since the two countries agreed in January 2004 to resume peace talks, the Indian statement said.

Deepak Kaul, an Indian visa official in Islamabad, was caught "red-handed with sensitive documents," a Pakistani government official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. He declined to give details.

India responded by ordering Mohammed Rafique, a visa official at Pakistan's High Commission in New Delhi, to leave India by Aug. 7, Pakistan's foreign ministry said.

Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said Kaul was "caught red-handed" and has been told to leave by early next week.

"We have evidence of his undesirable activities," she said.

The expulsions do not represent a major breach in relations between Pakistan and India, but reflect growing strain in the peace process, which aims to resolve six decades of hostility.

The last diplomatic expulsions were ordered in 2003.

"Such action as has been taken by the government of Pakistan cannot but undermine the bilateral relations between the two countries," the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement.

It said Pakistani agents detained Kaul on the Islamabad-Lahore Highway as he was traveling to the international border checkpoint at Wagah to fetch his family. He was handcuffed, blindfolded and taken to an undisclosed location where he was kept for about five hours, before he was handed over to Indian diplomats, the statement said.

T.C.A. Raghawan, deputy high commissioner at the Indian mission in Islamabad, confirmed that Kaul has been ordered to leave and denied he was involved in any unlawful activity..

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since the partition of the subcontinent in 1947 after independence from Britain. Tensions have eased in the last 2 1/2 years, but ramped up again after July 11 bombings on the Bombay rail network that killed 207 people.

India said the attackers had received support from across the border in Pakistan and postponed a round of peace talks. Pakistan denied it had aided the attackers.


Associated Press Writer Rajesh Mahapatra in New Delhi contributed to this report.

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