PAKISTAN has withdrawn six of its diplomats working at the Pakistani embassy in New Delhi amid increasing tension between the two countries over the disputed Kashmir territory, according to Pakistani officials and an Indian spokesman.
The two Pakistani officials said Pakistan has unearthed a “network of Indian spy agencies” working at the Indian embassy in Islamabad, underlining the increased animosity and suspicion between the nuclear-armed neighbors. They said authorities have sought Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s approval to expel some Indian diplomats.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue.
In New Delhi, Vikas Swarup, the Indian External Affairs Ministry’s spokesman, confirmed that six Pakistani diplomats flew back to Islamabad on Wednesday as after being withdrawn by their government.
However, Swarup said Pakistan had not yet expelled any Indian diplomats from the country, the Associated Press reported.
A Pakistani diplomat, who also declined to be named, told the Indian Express that the six embassy diplomats had arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday.
“They, along with families, reached Pakistan safely today,” the diplomat was quoted as saying.
Sources told the Indian Express that the children of the Pakistani diplomats had been harassed in school in recent days.
Last week, Mahmood Akhtar, the Pakistani diplomat in New Delhi, was expelled from India over spying allegations. In a tit-for-tat response, Pakistan expelled Indian diplomat Sujeel Singh within hours of Akhtar’s expulsion.
Akhtar told Associated Press that he was arrested by Indian police while visiting the zoo in New Delhi. Akhtar also claimed he was tortured and forced to confess on camera to working for Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence during his detention.
“My whole body is still in pain,” he said, adding Indian police kicked him with batons and beat him.
Tensions between India and Pakistan have been running high since the Sept 18 attack at an Indian army base in Kashmir, near the highly militarized Line of Control (LoC) dividing the two nuclear-armed neighbors.
The assault by unidentified rebels, said to be the worst in over a decade, led to the deaths of 19 Indian soldiers, and sparked daily verbal assaults by Indian officials who said Pakistan was behind it.
In retaliation later, India said it carried out surgical strikes across the LoC in Pakistan’s side of Kashmir and claimed it destroyed several terrorist launching pads used by Pakistani militants.
It said its elite troops crossed into Pakistan territory in Kashmir and killed suspected militants who were allegedly planning strikes in major cities in India. The attack allegedly incapacitated more than 30 terrorists and destroyed five terror launch pads in the region.
Pakistan, however, said no such strike occurred.
Both countries have engaged in more fire exchanges since then.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press