Pakistan orders tit-for-tat expulsions
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistan has ordered five Indian diplomats to leave the country hours after New Delhi said it was going to expel five Pakistani diplomats.
The tit-for-tat moves, which include the acting high commissioners for each country, come amid tensions over the disputed Kashmir region, where India says Pakistan is supporting militant separatist groups.
Both countries gave the other 48 hours to remove their staff.
Pakistan's Acting High Commissioner Jalil Abbas Jilani was ordered to leave India after being accused of giving cash to fund subversive activities in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Four others were also told on Saturday that they had 48 hours to leave India.
Islamabad responded within hours -- labeling the acting Indian High Commssioner, Sudhir Vyas, and four colleagues "personae non grata, for involvement in activities incompatible with their status." All five were also given 48 hours to leave Pakistan.
In an exclusive interview with CNN's New Delhi bureau chief, Satinder Bindra, Jilani denied the accusations saying they were "cooked up" but adding the Kashmiri separatists were taking part in a "legitimate freedom struggle." (Full story)
The Pakistan foreign ministry said the decision to expel five Indian Embassy employees keeps staff numbers the same as those at the Pakistan Embassy in New Delhi.
"Reciprocating the Indian decision to further cut the strength of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi from 51 to 47 personnel, the government of Pakistan has also decided to apply the same staff ceiling on the Indian High Commission in Islamabad," the ministry statement said.
Pakistan's acting high commissioner and his colleagues were expelled after Indian police accused him of funding Kashmiri separatists.
Last week police in New Delhi arrested two activists for the Kashmiri separatist group, the Hurriyat Conference, one of them in front of Pakistan's high commissioner's offices.
Police allege the activist received $6,000 from the Pakistani high commissioner to fund activities of the separatist Hurriyat group and Kashmiri terrorists.
Speaking to CNN Pakistan's information minister Sheik Rashid condemned the move saying it would do nothing to ease tensions between the South Asian rivals.
"India wants to provoke us, which it will not," he said. "This is a totally wrong, false statement that we are funding [Kashmiri separatists]."
India has said it would welcome a new diplomat to replace Jilani.
The expulsions are is the latest stage in an ongoing row between Islamabad and New Delhi over Pakistan's alleged support for Kashmiri separatist groups.
India accuses the Pakistani government of arming, funding and providing other support for militant groups it blames for a series of attacks on Indian soil.
Pakistan has repeatedly denied giving anything other than moral support to political groups peacefully campaigning for the Kashmiri peoples right to self-determination.
Last year the nuclear-armed rivals came to the brink of war over the issue, massing around a million troops along their shared border.
In January India and Pakistan engaged in retaliatory expulsions of each other's diplomats, both accusing the officials concerned of "activities incompatible with their diplomatic status" -- standard diplomatic parlance for spying.
Tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats are not uncommon between India and Pakistan.
However, the latest round comes against a background of verbal sparring over each side's weapons purchases and military prowess.
Pakistan has condemned a series of recent Indian missile tests, accusing New Delhi of trying to start an arms race in the South Asian region.
For its part India has warned Pakistan over what it views as Islamabad's threats to use nuclear weapons.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain -- two of them over the disputed territory of Kashmir.