In a step aimed at strengthening bilateral ties between India and Pakistan, the Ministry of External Affairs on Saturday exchanged the lists of nationals of their respective countries who are currently lodged in the jails of the other country, news agency ANI reported. In addition, the Indian government also requested Pakistan to grant consular access to Indians lodged in their custody, including Hamid Nehal Ansari and Kulbhushan Jadhav. The ministry was quoted by ANI as saying, “Again requested Pakistan to grant consular access to Indians lodged in their custody including Hamid Nehal Ansari and Kulbhushan Jadhav.”
A report earlier handed over by the Pakistan government to the Indian envoy in Islamabad stated that at least 546 Indian nationals, which includes nearly 500 fishermen, are lodged in Pakistani jails. The list of the prisoners was submitted to High Commissioner Gautam Bambawale under the Consular Access Agreement which was signed between the two nations on May 21, 2008. The foreign office said the Indian prisoners included “52 civilians and 494 fishermen”. It also added that the “step is consistent with the provisions of the Consular Access Agreement”, under which both the nations were directed to exchange the lists of prisoners in each other’s custody twice a year – on January 1 and July 1.
The foreign office had earlier said that 219 Indian fishermen were released on January 6 this year and 77 fishermen and a civilian would be released on July 10.
Kulbhushan Jadhav was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court in April on charges of espionage and sabotage activities. India had moved the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Jadhav’s death penalty. The ICJ on May 18 had restrained Pakistan from executing the Indian national.
(with inputs from agencies)