India expels Pakistan's envoy after terrorist attacks in Kashmir

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The Independent Online

India yesterday chose a diplomatic response to this week's terrorist violence in Kashmir, which cost 34 lives, expelling Pakistan's high commissioner to India. But cross-border firing intensified in Kashmir as the five-month-long phoney war between the feuding neighbours heated up once more, with seven civilians reported killed on both sides, and whole villages in Indian Kashmir abandoned by their frightened residents.

India yesterday chose a diplomatic response to this week's terrorist violence in Kashmir, which cost 34 lives, expelling Pakistan's high commissioner to India. But cross-border firing intensified in Kashmir as the five-month-long phoney war between the feuding neighbours heated up once more, with seven civilians reported killed on both sides, and whole villages in Indian Kashmir abandoned by their frightened residents.

The announcement of the expulsion of High Commissioner Ashraf Jehangir Qazi came after a meeting of India's cabinet committee on security chaired by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. The decision was explained by the Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh as being "for the sake of parity of representation".

After a suicide attack on its parliament on 13 December, which India blamed on Pakistan, India forced a 50 per cent cut in the staffing of Pakistan's mission in Delhi, and pulled out half of its own staff from Islamabad. India also withdrew its high commissioner but Pakistan chose to keep its own chief of mission where he was, though India refused to deal with him. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry "noted with disappointment" the Indian expulsion.

The armed forces of India and Pakistan have been fully mobilised close to the long common border since the attack on parliament, as India tried to put pressure on Pakistan's President Musharraf to crack down on Islamic militants based in his country. General Musharraf has taken symbolic action against the militants, but India believes he and the Pakistan military as a whole remain committed to supporting the long-running insurgency in Kashmir, the only state in India with a majority Muslim population.

In the most recent attack, on Tuesday morning, three men disguised as Indian soldiers mowed down passengers on a bus, then blasted their way into a thinly guarded army camp near the city of Jammu, the state's winter capital, killing 34, including women and children. India was quick to blame the attack on Lashkar-e-Taiba, a powerful militant group with sprawling headquarters near the Pakistani city of Lahore. Pakistan scorned this explanation, but the head of the group was arrested in Pakistan the next day.

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