India and Pakistan have decided to withdraw diplomats as tensions between the two nuclear powers of the South Asia region keep escalating.
Vikas Swarup, the spokesman of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, confirmed on Wednesday that New Delhi had decided to withdraw eight diplomats stationed in Islamabad.
The Indian official said the main reason for the withdrawal was their identification in the local media as suspected spies.
"They have put in the public domain eight names and six of these people went today. We will eventually withdraw all eight,” Swarup said, adding that the diplomats had been "completely compromised" after their names and pictures were put in the public domain.
The decision came hours after reports said Pakistan had been planning the expulsion of five Indian diplomats on suspicion of espionage. They said Pakistani authorities had uncovered an alleged "network of Indian spy agencies" working at the Indian embassy in Islamabad and that they were awaiting an approval by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to expel a number of Indian diplomats.
Sources in Islamabad and New Delhi said on Wednesday that Pakistan had also withdrawn six of its diplomats from India.
Swarup confirmed that the Pakistani diplomats had left the Indian capital earlier in the day, rejecting claims in the media that they were expelled.
The diplomatic tension began last week when India ordered one employee of the Pakistani High Commission out of the country, saying he was a suspected spy. Islamabad reacted in a tit-for-tat move and expelled one of India’s envoys.
The two countries have also been at odds over the past months regarding the conflict in Indian-controlled Kashmir. The heavily-guarded area saw a protest by the majority Muslim population in July, when a popular pro-independence fighter was killed by Indian forces. India blamed the surge in unrest on Pakistan, saying Islamabad sent militants to the Himalayan region to trigger more violence. Cross-border clashes then unfolded between the two sides, resulting in dozens of casualties. The latest of such clashes beginning last weekend left nearly 20 people dead from the two sides.