Pakistan-India: Frosty relations thaw with prisoners swap

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LAHORE: As the frosty relations between Pakistan and India begin to thaw, the two arch-rivals have started swapping each other’s prisoners languishing in jails for petty offences. 

In the second high-profile prisoner release in days, India on Monday set free a group of 39 Pakistani prisoners held in India.

“We have received 39 Pakistani prisoners from India,” said Mehboob Hussain, the spokesperson for paramilitary rangers.

“We are checking their documents and will send them to their respective places,” he added, describing the releases as a ‘goodwill gesture’.

Indian authorities earlier escorted the Pakistanis, who include two women, to a border transit post in Amritsar from where they left for home.

Border Security Force (BSF) officer Lakhbir Singh said the detainees were held in eight separate prisons on charges of either overstaying their visa or illegally crossing into India.

Pakistan last week released Gopal Das, a jailed Indian who had been held for 23 years. And on Monday, Pakistani authorities said that another 89 Indian fishermen would be freed from a jail in Malir, Karachi.

The fishermen, who had been arrested for violating Pakistan’s territorial water limits, will be handed over to Indian authorities on Friday at the Wagah border.

Travel documents of these fishermen have been prepared after verification from the foreign ministry.

This show of ‘goodwill’ is seen as another confidence-building measure as India and Pakistan look to get their stalled peace process back on track.

Peace talks between the two countries, started in 2004, were derailed after gunmen – who India insists came from Pakistan – staged bloody attacks in Mumbai in 2008.

On March 30, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani visited India to watch the India-Pakistan cricket World Cup semi-final with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh.

Pakistan and India have agreed to a series of high-level talks until July to shore up the fragile detente.

 

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