Asia

India expels Pakistani embassy staffer over espionage charge

People rally against India to express solidarity with Indian Kashmiris fighting against government forces, in Lahore, Pakistan, Thursday. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry on Thursday said India was expelling a Pakistani diplomat in New Delhi.

People rally against India to express solidarity with Indian Kashmiris fighting against government forces, in Lahore, Pakistan, Thursday. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry on Thursday said India was expelling a Pakistani diplomat in New Delhi.  (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry on Thursday said India was expelling a Pakistani diplomat in New Delhi after briefly detaining him on what it called "false and unsubstantiated charges," a sign of increasing tension between the two South Asian nuclear-armed archrivals.

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India informed Pakistan's high commissioner, the top Pakistani diplomat in the country, that embassy staff member Mehmood Akhtar had until Oct. 29 to leave the country, the ministry said in a statement.

Vikas Swarup, a spokesman for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, confirmed the decision in a tweet, saying India determined Akhtar was involved in espionage activities -- a charge rejected by Pakistan.

Earlier, the ministry said that Akhtar was caught with defense-related documents.

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Ravinder Yadav, a police official in New Delhi, also said Akhtar was holding documents relating to the deployment of Indian troops along the India-Pakistan border. He said Akhtar worked in the visa section of the Pakistani embassy.

Yadav said Indian security agencies had been tracking Akhtar's activities for the past six months. "They detained him briefly for questioning and the documents were found on him," Yadav told a press conference.

He said Akhtar was released as he enjoyed diplomatic immunity.

Yadav said two Indian men, from the western state of Rajasthan bordering Pakistan, had been arrested for passing on information to Akhtar. The incident comes amid heightened tensions between Pakistan and India over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, which is divided between the two countries but claimed by both.

Pakistani and Indian troops in recent weeks have frequently exchanged cross-border fire, causing casualties on both sides.