- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2003

NEW DELHI (AP) India ordered the expulsion of four Pakistan Embassy officials yesterday, a move Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Kamran Niaz called "unfortunate" and further damaging to relations between the nuclear-armed South Asian rivals.

The four officials, including the second-highest diplomat at the mission, were told to leave the country within 48 hours, Foreign Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said.

Mr. Sarna implied the four were spying, saying they "were found indulging in activities incompatible with their official status."

The expulsions came as the two nations accused each other of harassing their diplomats and increased their hostile rhetoric in recent weeks indicating that despite pulling back from a war stance, neither is in the mood for improved relations.

"It is yet another action to vitiate the atmosphere which is already very bad. They have upped the ante and created another unpleasant development," Mr. Niaz said in Islamabad. Mr. Niaz would not say whether Pakistan would reciprocate and expel Indian diplomats, as it usually does. "We have to evaluate what they have done and the government will take appropriate action," he said.

Those asked to leave the Pakistan High Commission, or embassy, are Counselor Mansoor Saeed Sheik and First Secretary Mian Muhammad Asif, and two staff members, Muhammad Tasneem Khan and Sher Muhammad.

India and Pakistan routinely expel each other's diplomats on spying charges.


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