Tit-for-tat expulsions to have no impact on ties: analysts
‘India playing dangerous game’
ISLAMABAD: India has launched a dangerous game in accusing and expelling Pakistan’s top diplomat to Delhi, Pakistani analysts warned on Sunday.
“Expulsions have happened in the past, but this time the Indians have taken the joke too far,” said Khalid Mahmud from the state-funded Institute of Regional Studies. “To accuse the acting high commissioner himself of being involved in giving money to militants in Kashmir is just ridiculous.
“It’s a very reckless pursuit of diplomatic relations. You don’t do that.”
New Delhi on Saturday expelled Pakistan’s acting high commissioner Jalil Abbas Jeelani and four embassy officials after accusing Jilani of personally channeling cash worth 6,000 dollars to Islamic militants fighting Indian rule in Kashmir.
Pakistan swiftly expelled India’s top envoy and four Indian high commission officials in response, rejecting the charges against Jilani as framed and part of a campaign of vilification.
The mutual expulsions, the second in less than three weeks, have sent the hostile neighbours’ diplomatic relations plunging to new lows just four months after both sides ended a 10-month military standoff and withdrew troops from their border.
Diplomatic relations had already been downgraded since the deadly December 2001 attack on the Indian parliament. New Delhi blamed Pakistani-based Kashmiri rebels and the nuclear-armed rivals sent a million troops to their border, placing South Asia on the brink of war.
Mahmud said India was showing it had little interest in reducing tensions arising from the 55-year-old dispute over control of Muslim-majority Kashmir.
“Instead of moving towards some sort of normalisation or easing of tensions, this has gone in the reverse direction,” he told AFP. But Mahmud did not see the diplomatic war as a precursor to military confrontation between the South Asian foes who have already fought two wars over Kashmir since gaining independence in 1947.
“If the Indians wanted to go to war they could’ve done it last year.
“Now that they’ve withdrawn troops I don’t think they will do it again, but short of that I suppose it’s very serious tensions.” Islamabad-based political analyst Aqil Shah saw in New Delhi’s move an effort to keep world attention on Pakistan and militants crossing from its territory to Indian Kashmir to keep up a 14-year insurgency against Indian rule.
“Basically there’s a strategy to keep the pressure on Pakistan as US attention shifts to Iraq,” Shah told AFP.
Reports from New Delhi say: The latest bout of reciprocal diplomatic expulsions by India and Pakistan is unlikely to have any immediate impact on the already strained relations between the South Asian nuclear-armed rivals, analysts said Sunday. “This is not unusual. It happened constantly between the United States and Russia,” said G Parthasarthy who was high commissioner to Islamabad in 1999.
India and Pakistan on Saturday expelled each other’s top envoys in a row over allegations that Islamabad’s high commission was used to funnel cash to separatists in Indian Kashmir.
The foreign ministries of both countries said the other’s diplomats were involved in “activities incompatible with their status.” Asked if this would impact on bilateral relations, Ajai Sahni, executive director at the Institute of Conflict Management in New Delhi, said: “Where can the relations go?”
“They are at rock bottom already. This tit-for-tat is nothing new. It is a constant in India-Pakistan relations. Even during the best of times, this has happened, our staff members have been beaten up. It’s not unusual.”
Many in New Delhi favour a further cropping of the Pakistan embassy with some even calling for its complete closure. “In my assessment, roughly 70 per cent of the staff at the Pakistani mission are from their intelligence agencies,” said Parthasarthy.
“When President Pervez Musharraf’s government doesn’t want trade with India, it has reservations about any cultural exchanges, it is not interested in tourism... why do they need these 46 or 47 people here. There is no need for such a large staff. We should cut down the staff to the bare minimum,” the former diplomat added. But he said he was not in favour of closing it completely.
“It is imperative that countries, even when they have tensions, should keep open the channels of communication,” he said. Sahni disagreed, saying the time was right to shut down the mission.
“My opinion is that we should take the most extreme diplomatic step. These missions do not serve any purpose except work as facilitators of Pakistan government policy which is terrorism,” Sahni said.—AFP