India and Pakistan Friday exchanged postal mailbags via land route at Attari-Wagah border, nearly three months after Islamabad, in a ‘unilateral’ decision, had stopped the service.
The exchange came three days after Pakistan Post issued orders “partially resuming” the postal services with India, “only to the extent of letter mail and Express Mail Service (EMS) documents”. The exchange of parcels, merchandise etc still remains banned.
Meanwhile, following a clearance from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the India Post too has issued fresh instructions to the post offices to start booking of letters and documents for Pakistan.
The exchange of mailbags was stopped on August 27 after Pakistan issued ‘internal’ orders stopping the postal service with India. Union Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had termed the move to be “in direct contravention of international norms”.
Meanwhile, Tanweer Qamar Mohammad, Deputy Director General (DDG), International Relations and Global Business, India Post, confirmed that the exchange of postal mailbags has started but added that Pakistan was yet to send any direct communication or notice informing about the same to India.
“It was through media reports that we got to know that Pakistan Post has started accepting bookings for India and has partially resumed services. We have not received any direct communication or notice informing us about resumption of services. However, we sent our staff to Wagah border today and exchange of mailbags has resumed. The decision to resume the service has been taken after MEA clearance,” said Mohammad.
He added that fresh instructions have been issued to post offices that they can now start booking Pakistan-bound letters and documents. “We will first clear the mail lying pending with us for the last three months,” he said.
Asked if parcels and merchandise consignments lying in hold will be sent to Pakistan now, Mohammad said, “We will send the parcels but it depends on them whether they will accept them or not”.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Vikas Sharma, assistant superintendent, Amritsar, Railways Mail Service, India Post, said, “Today two mailbags have been received from Pakistan via Wagah. Our mail vans went there on Wednesday and Thursday too, but no vans came from their side”.
He further said that the mailbags for International Mail Office (IMO) at Lahore are exchanged via Wagah after clearance from Delhi Foreign Post Office (FPO). The bags for international mail office at Karachi are sent via air-route.
The international post across the world is regulated by Universal Postal Union (UPU), a UN agency, headquartered at Bern in Switzerland. India had shot off a letter to the UPU apprising it of Pakistan’s “unilateral decision” and how it has “defied UPU norms” by not serving any prior notice before suspending the service.
As per the Convention Manual issued by the International Bureau of the UPU in 2018, Article 17-143 titled ‘Steps to be Taken in Event of Temporary Suspension and Resumption of Services’, reads, “If services are temporarily suspended, the designated operator or designated operators concerned must be notified of the fact by telecommunications, indicating, if possible, the probable duration of the suspension of services. The same procedure shall be applied when the suspended services are resumed”.
It was for the first time since the Partition that postal services between India and Pakistan were stopped. Apart from land route, India and Pakistan also exchange mail via Saudi Arabia air-route.
Other than the UPU norms of which both neighbours are members, there are three bilateral agreements which regulate postal exchange between both countries. The oldest one is Exchange of Value Payable Article, 1948 followed by ‘Exchange of Postal Article, 1974’ and ‘International Speed Post Agreement, 1987.’
Sources in India Post say that according to these agreements too, a prior notice has to be served before suspending services.