ISLAMABAD - Pakistan is active to de-escalate tension with India as Islamabad is set to allow a group of Indian doctors to visit Pakistan to treat Indian prisoners detained here, diplomatic sources said.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Pakistan was “in principle” ready to host some doctors from India but details were being discussed.

One official said: “It was a proposal from India to allow visit of doctors who could check the prisoners detained in Pakistan. They will examine women, children and mentally-challenged prisoners. We are discussing the details. In principle we have nothing against the visit.”

He added: “We also want a visit by our doctors to India in return [for the same purpose]. They want to send a big group, which is being considered by Pakistan.”

India had proposed that a group of 20 doctors be allowed a visit to Pakistan to examine women, children, elderly and mentally-unsound prisoners. The two countries have already agreed for these prisoners.

India maintains that it was important for them to get the mentally-unsound prisoners examined by doctors to facilitate their repatriation. The agreement arrived at over the humanitarian issue of prisoners was a product of a meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan High Commissioner Sohail Mehmood.

India has also sought to construction of a Indian residential complex in Islamabad and permission to Indian diplomats to get Islamabad Club’s membership.

The talks to facilitate visit of the doctors come amid tension between the two neighbours over harassment of each other’s diplomats.

There have also been bloody skirmishes along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary.

This month, the foreign minister had told the National Assembly that India committed more than 400 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary since January in which 18 civilians were killed.

“Heavy weapons, including mortars, are frequently being used by the Indian forces on the civilian population on the Pakistani side of the LoC and the Working Boundary,” he had said.

Asif said the LoC violations were an attempt to divert the attention from the deteriorating humanitarian situation in held Kashmir.

Earlier, three UN observers narrowly escaped the Indian army’s attack along the LoC in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Two civilians were seriously injured in the incident.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres had expressed concern over the situation developing along the LoC between Pakistan and India and urged the two countries to hold talks.

Pakistan had recalled its High Commissioner to India Sohail Mehmood “for consultations” after harassment of Pakistani diplomats in New Delhi.

He was later sent back to New Delhi.

In 2003, Pakistan and India had declared ceasefire along the LoC but in the recent months, India violated the peace deal numerous times.

Tensions between Pakistan and India have been high since the killing of a Kashmiri freedom fighter, Burhan Wani, in July 2016.

An attack on Indian forces in September 2016 - that killed 19 soldiers in Uri area of held Kashmir - further heightened the tensions.

India also claimed it had carried a “surgical strike” to avenge the Uri attack.

Pakistan rejected the Indian claim.

In January, Pakistan extended the MunaBao, India-Khokhrapar, Pakistan rail link agreement with India for another three years.

Pakistan agreed to extend the agreement from February 1, 2018, to January 31, 2021.

The agreement was signed in 2006.

The Munabao-Khokhrapar train service connects Pakistan’s Sindh and India’s Rajasthan provinces.

Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said Pakistan was ready for dialogue with India.

“The talks should be result oriented and meaningful. It should be uninterrupted and uninterruptable,” he added.

Faisal said Pakistan was a responsible member of the international community and we make all possible efforts to ensure the safety and security of the diplomats stationed in Islamabad.

The spokesperson said: “Pakistan is seriously concerned over the treatment being meted out to the diplomats, officials and families, including small children, at the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi. We have proofs of the harassment.”

High Commissioner to India Sohail Mehmood, he said, was called back this month for consultations for some days.

Pakistan is also disappointed over the non-issuance of visas by India for the visit of the 503 Pakistani Zaireen (pilgrims) to participate in the Urs (anniversary) of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti at Ajmer Sharif.

Officials said the government would soon announce its decision on the Indian doctors’ visit.

“We may allow a smaller group to visit Pakistan,” said one official.

 

 

Shafqat Ali