India notes Pakistan’s positive response to prisoners’ exchange proposal

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New Delhi, March 8 (IANS) Amid the deep chill in ties between India and Pakistan, a ray of hope appeared on Wednesday when New Delhi said it noted Pakistan’s positive response to a proposal on exchange of elderly, women, children and mentally unsound prisoners in each other’s custody.

In response to a query, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that India had noted that “Pakistan has responded positively” to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’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”.

In October last year, Sushma Swaraj suggested that the two sides could progress on humanitarian issues related to elderly, women, children and mentally unsound prisoners when Pakistan High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood called on her after freshly assuming office.

Earlier on Wednesday, Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif approved the humanitarian proposals received from the India regarding the civilian prisoners incarcerated in both India and Pakistan.

“The Foreign Minister, after consulting with all the stakeholders, has approved the humanitarian proposals, which had been received from the Indian side, regarding the civilian prisoners incarcerated in both the countries,” the Pakistan Foreign Office said in a statement.

It said that Asif expressed the hope that India would positively reciprocate Pakistan’s proposals, in the spirit that they have been made.

“He also stated that it was his desire that through such initiatives, Pakistan and India would 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 Working Boundary,” it stated.

Kumar, in his statement, said that 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 in each other’s custody,” he said.

“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.”



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