TIME Pakistan

Pakistan Withdraws Six Diplomats from New Delhi Amid Tensions Over Disputed Kashmir

The two countries have accused the other's embassy of harboring spies

(ISLAMABAD) — Pakistan on Wednesday withdrew six diplomats from its embassy in New Delhi, officials said, amid rising tension between the two countries over the disputed region of Kashmir.

In another mark of the increasing animosity and suspicion between the nuclear-armed neighbors, two Pakistani officials said that they had uncovered an alleged “network of Indian spy agencies” working at the Indian embassy in Islamabad. They said authorities have sought Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s approval to expel a number of 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Indian External Affairs Ministry’s spokesman, confirmed that six Pakistani diplomats flew back to Islamabad after being withdrawn by their government. He told The Associated Press that Pakistan had not yet expelled any Indian diplomats from the country.

Swarup said earlier Wednesday that India had summoned senior Pakistani diplomat Syed Haider Shah to protest cease-fire violations in Kashmir.

Last week, India expelled Pakistani diplomat Mahmood Akhtar from the embassy in New Delhi after detaining him on espionage charges. Within hours, Islamabad retaliated by expelling Indian diplomat Sujeel Singh.

Akhtar told The Associated Press that he was arrested by Indian police while visiting the zoo in New Delhi. He said that while in detention he was tortured and forced to confess on camera to working for Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence.

He said that police kicked him with batons and beat him. “My whole body is still in pain,” he said. No Indian official was immediately available to comment.

The diplomatic spat has grown out of rising violence in Kashmir, a mountainous region claimed by both countries and divided into Pakistani and Indian-controlled regions. Several troops from both sides have died in recent skirmishes along the Line of Control, which demarcates the two parts of Kashmir.

A number of militant attacks in Indian-controlled Kashmir have added to the tension.

Two of the three wars between India and Pakistan since 1947 have been fought over their competing claims to Kashmir.

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Sharma report from New Delhi, India

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