Despite bilateral relations being at an all-time low, India and Pakistan exchanged names of nuclear installations that cannot be struck in the case of hostilities on Sunday, continuing a ritual that dates back more than three decades.
The two sides also exchanged prisoner lists, with the Indian side requesting the early release of civilian prisoners, missing Indian defence personnel, and fishermen.
According to the requirements of the Agreement on the Prohibition of Attacks on Nuclear Installations and Facilities, names of nuclear installations and facilities were exchanged concurrently through diplomatic channels in New Delhi and Islamabad. Both sides keep the features of the facilities under wraps.
On December 31, 1988, the agreement was signed and went into effect on January 27, 1991. It specifies that on January 1 of each calendar year, India and Pakistan must notify each other of the nuclear installations and facilities covered by the treaty.
“This is the 31st such exchange between the two countries, with the first taking place on January 1, 1992,” the foreign affairs ministry said in a statement.
India presently has 282 Pakistani civilian captives and 73 fisherman in its custody, according to lists of civilian inmates and fishermen swapped concurrently through diplomatic channels in New Delhi and Islamabad. Pakistan, on the other hand, holds 51 civilian prisoners and 577 fishermen who are either Indians or suspected to be Indians.
These lists are exchanged in accordance with the terms of the May 2008 Consular Access Agreement. Every year on January 1 and July 1, the two sides exchange comprehensive lists under this agreement.
In a second statement, the external affairs ministry added, “The Government has urged for the early release and repatriation of civilian prisoners, missing Indian army personnel, and fishermen, together with their boats, from Pakistan’s custody.”
In this regard, Pakistan has been asked to speed up the release of two Indian civilian detainees and 356 fishermen whose nationality has already been validated and communicated to Pakistan.
According to the statement, Pakistan was also ordered to allow prompt consular access to 182 Indian fishermen and 17 civilian inmates “in Pakistan’s custody and presumed to be Indian.”
The Indian side asked Pakistan to expedite the granting of visas to members of a team of medical experts and to make it easier for them to enter Pakistan to “evaluate the mental status of suspected Indian detainees of unsound mind” who are being kept in various jails.
“It was also proposed to organise an early visit of the Joint Judicial Committee to Pakistan,” the statement said, referring to a committee created under the terms of the 2008 deal that includes legal experts from both sides.
The deal signed in 2008 aided in the identification and release of hundreds of detainees, the bulk of whom were fisherman. However, bilateral tensions have hampered the project in recent years.
The Indian side also requested Pakistan to take swift action “at its end to clarify the nationality status of 68 Pakistani inmates, including fishermen, whose repatriation is pending due to Pakistan’s lack of nationality confirmation.”
In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, Pakistan has been asked to protect the safety, security, and wellbeing of all Indian and suspected Indian civil detainees and fishermen, according to the statement.
“India remains committed to addressing all humanitarian matters, particularly those relating to prisoners and fishermen in each other’s country, on a priority basis,” the statement continued.