Bhutto takes the helm in Pakistan. Glitch in relations with India is among problems facing new prime minister

Benazir Bhutto today takes the oath of office as Pakistan's first freely elected prime minister in more than a decade. When naming Ms. Bhutto to the post yesterday, President Ghulam Ishaq Khan on television praised her ``leadership and foresight.'' He congratulated her as ``the choice of the people.''

The event was a triumph for Bhutto's party, which won the most seats in the Nov. 16 parliamentary vote. She had had to fend off a strong challenge from the conservative party that won the second-largest bloc of National Assembly seats, as well as assuage the doubts of Pakistan's political and military establishment.

The two weeks of protracted political maneuvering have given Pakistan's first woman head of government a foretaste of tough domestic battles ahead.

And yesterday, Bhutto received a pointed reminder of nagging problems on the foreign-policy front - specifically, soured relations with neighboring India.

New Delhi yesterday expelled Pakistan's senior military attach'e, Brig. Z.I.Abbasi, and an embassy clerk on charges of spying.

The two were arrested Wednesday while accepting secret defense documents from an Indian in exchange for about $3,600, Indian officials say. The move came after an investigation of several months, they say.

``There was no aim to cause anyone any harm,'' said an Indian spokesman. ``This is a matter of security and vital secrets.''

In private, however, some Indian officials suggest that the timing of the Pakistanis' ouster was intended to send a message to Islamabad: that India will not be a pushover, even for a new civilian government.

``We want good relations, and we're glad to have democracy back,'' a senior Indian official says. ``But Pakistan has to make the gesture if it wants to be friends.''

Bhutto, whose country has fought three wars with India since 1947, says she wants to improve relations.

In the short term, the spy flap could hurt ties, Western diplomats say. In the long run it could affect Bhutto's relations with her military.

``This could stiffen resistance [to diplomatic overtures] within Pakistan's military,'' says one diplomat here. ``This will certainly not increase her range in dealing with the Army.''

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