Sunday, January 26
Snarling across the border
Economist Global Agenda, Jan 23rd 2003
The latest row between India and Pakistan, in which each has expelled four of the other countries’ officials, appears relatively trivial. But there are fears that it could be the precursor to another crisis between the two nuclear-armed neighbours
.... That is usually diplomatic code for spying. In this instance, however, it seems likely that the expulsions resulted from India’s exasperation at Pakistan’s failure to heed its protests about the alleged harassment of the most senior of its own diplomats in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.
India has lodged four formal protests over what it calls the “aggressive surveillance” of Suhdhir Vyas, its chargé d’affaires in Islamabad. It says his car has been repeatedly trailed, bumper-to-bumper, and boxed in by three or four cars. Pakistan has denied this, and accused India of creating trouble to cover up its own hounding of Pakistani officials in Delhi. On Thursday January 23rd it retaliated in the usual tit-for-tat style: four Indian officials, including three diplomats, were ordered to leave Islamabad within 48 hours, accused of “behaviour unbecoming of a diplomat”.
There is nothing especially unusual about this kind of squabble between two such mutually suspicious countries. They are symptoms of more fundamental disagreements. So too are other arguments that have recently simmered: Pakistan’s complaints about Indian attempts to stoke an arms race, with three missile tests in 11 days this month; and India’s harping on an article in the New Yorker magazine about alleged Pakistani assistance to North Korea’s nuclear programme.