India, Pakistan to expel envoys amid Kashmir tension

The pockmarked wall of a building damaged by alleged shelling from the Pakistani side of the disputed Kashmir border. Indian and Pakistani troops have exchanged fire several times this week in cross-border shelling.
The pockmarked wall of a building damaged by alleged shelling from the Pakistani side of the disputed Kashmir border. Indian and Pakistani troops have exchanged fire several times this week in cross-border shelling.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Islamabad accuses Delhi of killing 3 civilians in cross-border fire

NEW DELHI/ISLAMABAD • Cross- border fire continued between India and Pakistan yesterday, one day after both countries announced they would each expel one of the other's diplomats amid growing tension over the disputed region of Kashmir.

Pakistan yesterday accused India of killing three civilians and wounding five others in an exchange of fire in Nakyal sector, near the frontier dividing Indian-held Kashmir from Pakistan's Punjab province.

The latest violence comes after India said it would expel a Pakistani diplomat based in New Delhi who allegedly ran a spy ring that collected sensitive information about Indian security operations along its border.

Late on Thursday, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said it had declared an Indian diplomat, Mr Surjeet Singh, persona non grata and given him 48 hours to leave the country.

Police in the Indian capital said the Pakistani diplomat was detained on Wednesday outside the gates to Delhi Zoo, where he had met two Indian associates who police believe he had recruited to spy for him. The diplomat, who reportedly worked in the Pakistan High Commission's visa section, and his alleged Indian accomplices were found with forged documents, defence-related maps, deployment charts and lists of officers working along India's border with Pakistan, Indian police said in a statement.

"There was high probability that the information passed on by these anti-national elements to PIO (Pakistan intelligence operative) is being used against the national interests and could be highly detrimental to national security," they said, adding they had been trying to break the spy ring for six months.

India and Pakistan have been at loggerheads since a group of gunmen killed 19 Indian soldiers last month at an army camp in Kashmir, an attack that India blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

An Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman said the man, who was released from custody under diplomatic immunity rules, must leave the country by today.

The Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi rejected the allegations, saying in a statement it "never engages in any activity that is incompatible with its diplomatic status".

Later on Thursday, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry announced it had declared Mr Singh persona non grata and informed the Indian High Commission he had until today to leave the country.

The statement said Mr Singh was accused of activities "that were in violation of the Vienna Convention and the established diplomatic norms" but did not elaborate.

An aide to India's prime minister in New Delhi said the government was looking into the matter. India's External Affairs Ministry spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

India and Pakistan have been at loggerheads since a group of gunmen killed 19 Indian soldiers last month at an army camp in Kashmir, an attack that India blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

India said it had sent special commandos into Pakistan-controlled Kashmir to kill militants in a retaliatory operation that sharply soured relations between the neighbours.

Pakistan said the operation never happened and accused India of inventing it to divert attention from its crackdown on protests in the part of Kashmir it controls.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2016, with the headline 'India, Pakistan to expel envoys amid Kashmir tension'. Print Edition | Subscribe