The exchange of the list of prisoners held by India and Pakistan of the other’s citizens – a bi-annual process – is nothing more than ceremonial. The principle behind the idea is to allow for the citizens of each country to be allowed consular access, but it’s not like that has ever helped any of those imprisoned in the jails of the other’s country. A Pakistani citizen in an Indian Jail or vice versa, will only be free if the holding government decides it to be so, and until then, these (mostly innocent) individuals have no access to any form of legal aid.

The talks process is worse than stalled currently, and both sides are unwilling to admit that they have a part to play in the current state of affairs. Just stating that the country is ready to talk is not going to do the Foreign Office of either side any good. The spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, Vikas Swarup reiterated India’s desire to discuss all issues and Sartaj Aziz has held one press conference after another claiming that Pakistan is serious about doing the same. So what is the hold up? Why can’t either country seem to get its security forces in line with the government’s stance? In the case of Pakistan, the answer to that is obvious, but India has claimed time and again that things are different there. Sadly, evidence has always suggested otherwise.

The India-Pakistan rivalry has cost both sides immense loss, but perhaps the most unfair aspect about this is that innocent citizens often become collateral. On the borders, the outlying villages face indiscriminate fire, Kashmir has suffered horrible atrocities at the hands of India and has lost too many of its people, even with Pakistan’s assistance in the armament of the freedom movement. These prisoners are no different, innocent fisherman and shepherds that are not always mindful of imaginary lines in the ground or the sea. Both states know that apprehending these civilians does neither side any good. There is no military purpose fulfilled, no matters of national security undermined by their release. They even know that both sets of states are not too concerned by their citizens being used as hostages to the peace process. Is it not time then, to forgo this flawed endeavour and let this bone of contention rest, if for nothing else, then just a little goodwill among the citizens across the border.