Mint Explainer: 308 Indians held in Pakistan’s prisons. Here’s why

Under the terms of a 2008 Agreement of Consular Access, India and Pakistan exchange a list of prisoners in their custody twice a year. This happens on 1 January and 1 July. (Image: Shutterstock)
Under the terms of a 2008 Agreement of Consular Access, India and Pakistan exchange a list of prisoners in their custody twice a year. This happens on 1 January and 1 July. (Image: Shutterstock)

Summary

  • The arrest and detention of fishermen on both sides has been a recurring theme in bilateral relations. Given that the maritime boundaries between the two countries are somewhat blurry, fishermen have been caught in the net of authorities from both India and Pakistan

Three hundred Indians remain in prisons across Pakistan, according to the Ministry of External Affairs. India, on the other hand, had 417 Pakistanis in its custody as on 1 July this year. Mint breaks down the situation:

– In a response to a query in the Rajya Sabha, India’s Ministry of External Affairs revealed that 308 Indians are being held in prisons in Pakistan, which include 42 civilians and 266 fishermen. India also holds 417 Pakistanis in its jails, who are also largely fishermen.

– The arrest and detention of fishermen on both sides has been a recurring theme in bilateral relations. Given that the maritime boundaries between the two countries are somewhat blurry, fishermen have been caught in the net of authorities from both India and Pakistan.

– This sets in motion a flurry of diplomatic activity where both governments push for the early release and repatriation of those languishing in jails. Once arrests are made, the Indian High Commission in Pakistan rushes to ascertain the welfare of its citizens and provide basic welfare, according to the MEA.

– Under the terms of a 2008 Agreement of Consular Access, India and Pakistan exchange a list of prisoners in their custody twice a year. This happens on 1 January and 1 July.

– “2559 Indian fishermen and 63 Indian civilian prisoners have been repatriated from Pakistan since 2014. This includes 398 Indian fishermen and 5 Indian civilians who have been repatriated from Pakistan this year, so far," says the Ministry of External Affairs.

– “India has shared lists of 343 civilian prisoners and 74 fishermen in its custody, who are Pakistani or are believed to be Pakistani," the MEA said on 1 July this year when it exchanged its list of prisoners with Pakistan.

– Alongside technical mechanisms governing the Indus Waters Treaty, the exchange of prisoner lists is another bilateral diplomatic mechanism that has functioned normally despite tensions between India and Pakistan.

– The two countries also exchange a list of nuclear installations and facilities every year in an effort to boost transparency and reduce potential tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad.

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