Amid frequent ceasefire violations that have increased casualties on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC), Pakistan Wednesday reached out to India and stepped in with a slew of humanitarian measures to de-escalate the situation along the LoC and pave the way for a “comprehensive dialogue”.
Accepting New Delhi’s proposal, Pakistan Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif said that they have agreed to the request to exchange three categories of prisoners — women, disabled prisoners with special needs, and elderly inmate above 70 years.
Asif also agreed to the Indian proposal to facilitate visits by doctors to examine the mentally challenged prisoners in each other’s custody, so that they can be sent back. He agreed to revive the mechanism of judicial committee, which comprises retired judges from both sides looking into the condition of prisoners.
Going beyond the Indian requests, the Pakistan foreign minister extended two new proposals — exchange of prisoners who are either senior citizens (over 60) and minors.
According to the lists exchanged between India and Pakistan on January 1 this year, there are 457 Indian prisoners (58 civilian and 399 fishermen) in Pakistan’s jails, and 344 Pakistani prisoners (250 civilians, 94 fishermen) in Indian jails.
Responding to Pakistan’s statement, the Indian government said that it “notes” that Islamabad has responded positively to New Delhi’s suggestion and officials will be working on the modalities to implement the understanding reached on these humanitarian issues.
The Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, “External Affairs Minister of India had, in October 2017, suggested to the High Commissioner of Pakistan that the two sides could progress on humanitarian issues related to elderly, women, children and mentally unsound prisoners. We note that today Pakistan has responded positively to EAM’s suggestion to work towards the release and repatriation of prisoners over 70 years of age and women prisoners who are in each other’s custody. Further, a visit of a team of medical experts would be organised to meet the mentally unsound prisoners so as to facilitate the repatriation of such prisoners.”
“It has also been agreed to resume the visits of the Joint Judicial Committee which looks into the issues of fishermen and prisoners…. The last visit of such a committee had taken place in October 2013 to India. The officials on both sides would be working on the modalities to implement the understanding reached on these humanitarian issues,” Kumar said.
India’s proposals were discussed in a Parliamentary consultative committee recently, where Swaraj had briefed MPs about the proposal.
The Indian side maintained that ceasefire violations are an outcome of India responding to Pakistan’s attempts of infiltration in the recent weeks.
The Pakistan foreign minister also stated that it is his desire that through such initiatives, Pakistan and India will “embark on the road to a comprehensive dialogue”, and make a “conscious effort to de-escalate the extremely vitiated current environment and the situation” on the Line of Control and the International Boundary, the statement said.