ISLAMABAD- Pakistan has decided to release 57 fishing boats of the 150 Indian fishermen who had been freed in May this year as a goodwill gesture, the Foreign Ministry said Monday.
Pakistan and India routinely arrest fishermen and seize their boats after they entered each other's waters for fishing. They mistakenly enter other's waters as there is no determination of maritime boundaries.
Following the release of 150 Indian fishermen ahead of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's visit to New Delhi in May, Pakistan has now decided to release 57 fishing boats that were in its custody, a Foreign Ministry statement said.
A 9-member Indian delegation wrapped up a three-day visit to the port city of Karachi on Sunday to inspect the boats and discuss modalities for the release with officials of the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA).
A follow up visit of Indian officials would take place sometime in August to oversee the repairs before they are returned in mid September after repair of the boats, the Foreign Ministry said.
Indian fishermen and boats are often apprehended by PMSA authorities when they violate Pakistan territorial waters, it said.
Usually the boats are not in seaworthy condition and are not returned. However, following instructions from the Prime Minister to return these boats, hectic efforts were undertaken by the PMSA to ensure that the boats are returned to their rightful owners.
“The Government of Pakistan views the issue of prisoners as a humanitarian one and continues to make efforts for their release as soon as their prison sentence has been completed,” the Foreign Ministry said.
It called upon India to adhere to the Consular Agreement of 2008 and recommendations of the Judicial Committee on Prisoners to ensure that all those Pakistani prisoners are released whose sentences have been completed.
Earlier the foreign ministry said currently 477 Pakistani prisoners (346 civil prisoners and 131 fishermen) still remain lodged in Indian jails.
Out of these, 22 civil prisoners have completed sentence and await repatriation, a ministry statement said this month.
At present, 296 Indian nationals are detained in Pakistan, who include 47 civil prisoners and 249 fishermen.