As a goodwill gesture, Islamabad Sunday released over 200 Indian fishermen languishing in jail for trespassing into its territorial waters, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said.
The move – hailed by peace activists – comes amid ongoing diplomatic tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors since a brazen attack this September on an army base in Indian-held Kashmir that killed 19 Indian soldiers.
Since then, the two sides have been engaged in frequent border clashes that have claimed over 60 lives – both civilians and soldiers – on both sides.
“We have released 220 Indian fishermen from Malir jail in Karachi as a goodwill gesture,” a foreign office spokesman told Anadolu Agency.
The freed fishermen are likely to be handed over to Indian border authorities at the northeastern Wagha border on Monday, local Dunya TV reported, quoting unnamed government officials.
The remaining 229 incarcerated Indian fishermen are expected to be released in January, they added.
According to Indian media, over 150 Pakistani fishermen currently languishing in Indian jails are also likely to be released soon.
In the last such gesture, in February 2015, Islamabad released 172 Indian fishermen.
The two countries often arrest fishermen for violating each other’s seawaters due to poorly marked water boundaries and ill-equipped boats that lack the technology to specify exact locations.
Longstanding strained relations between the two neighbors keep prisoners in jail for longer periods, and in some cases, even after their sentences have been fulfilled.