The simmering relations between nuclear neighbours in South Asia assumed alarming proportions on Saturday after India expelled Pakistan’s top envoy following allegations of funding of separatists in Kashmir. Pakistan retaliated in a tit-for tat act and ordered India’s highest official to leave the country.
Jalil Abbas Jilani, who has been posted as Pakistan’s acting high commissioner since India ordered Ashraf Jehangir Qazi to leave the country in January 2002, was on Saturday declared persona non grata and told to leave the country along with four other officials within 48 hours.
This is for the first time in the history of diplomatic relations that an officer of the rank of high commissioner has been charged and named in a first information report of his involvement in funding separatists in Kashmir.
The action and reaction has triggered diplomatic showdown between arch rivals and eventually is moving towards explosive relations in which both the nuclear neighbours will be on the verge of snap.
Meanwhile, expectedly Pakistan on Saturday asked Indian deputy high commissioner Sudhir Vyas and first secretary Rahul Rasgotra and staffers S Balu, S.R. Anand and Ranbir Singh to leave the country. Indian police had in its first information report named Jilani as accused after it arrested two activists of separatist conglomerate Hurriyat Conference in New Delhi.
The Delhi police arrested top activist of Muslim Khawateen Markaz, the women wing of Hurriyat Conference, Anjum Zamrooda Habib and spokesperson of Kashmir Awareness Bureau, the publicity wing of Hurriyat, Shabir Dar after about half a million Indian rupees were recovered from them.
The Indian authorities booked both the accused under infamous anti-terrorism law, the Prevention of terrorism Act or POTA.
Accoding to Indian police, the 42-year old Anjum confessed before special judge S. N. Dingra in New Delhi on Friday that she was handed over Rs 300,000 in the Pakistan mission by Jilani as ‘token money’ for Hurriyat chairman Abdul Ghani Bhat. The police acting on information given by Anjum raided the Delhi office of Hurriyat and arrested Dar and recovered cash around Rs 200,000 from the premises in Malviya Nagar colony in south Delhi.
Jilani and Hurriyat have denied the charges with Hurriyat demanding probe by independent body into the accusations.
Jilani said in New Delhi that the accusations are baseless and will have “deep repercussions” on Indo-Pak relations.
Pakistan termed India’s decision to expel its Charge d’Affairs and four others as “very regrettable”. Chairman of All Parties Hurriyat Conference, a conglomerate of 25 political and separatist outfits in Kashmir, Abdul Gani Bhat said in Srinagar admitted knowing Anjum and Dar but was categorical in denying the allegations levelled by Delhi police. The police have sought permission from Indian home ministry to question Bhat on his alleged role in funding separatists in Kashmir.
The Indian foreign ministry ordered Jilani and the staffers — Habib-ur Rahman, Aftab Ahmed, Abdul Razzak and Mohammad Nazir to leave the country within 48 hours.
The foreign ministry acting tough after examining the home ministry report on Jilani said India “has hard evidence of what Jilani was doing, which was incompatible with the diplomatic norms.” India withdrew its High Commissioner Vijay K Nambiar in the wake of the December 13, 2001 attack on Parliament.
India and Pakistan had reduced their mission staff strength by half to 55 as one of steps taken after the December 13 terror attack.
Recently India expelled two Pakistani diplomats and staffers on charges of spying, prompting Islamabad to expel three Indian diplomats and a staffer. The dip in diplomatic relations has taken its toll on the staffer of high commission in New Delhi and Islamabad. India has maintained a close surveillance on Pakistan commission and has charged seven staffers with espionage and expelled all those suspected of any involvement while Pakistan has adopted a tit-for-tat approach and expelled Indian officials.
The current diplomatic stalemate and accusations of money laundering will have strong impact on Indian government’s initiative of peace talks in Kashmir. The arrest of Hurriyat Conference activists and close associates of its chairman in New Delhi will undermine the various initiatives by India government to involve Hurriyat in Kashmir talks.