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Pakistan releases dozens of Indian fishermen as “goodwill gesture”

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KARACHI: Pakistan on Thursday freed 219 Indian fishermen who had strayed into its waters, an official said, calling it a “goodwill gesture” ten days after a similar number were also released.

The fishermen, some of whom had been in jail for more than a year, will be handed over to Indian authorities at the Wagah border, Sindh provincial official Mohammad Naseem Siddiqui said.

A further 100 fishermen remain in prison, waiting for the Indian High Commission to confirm their nationality as they serve sentences of at least six months each, he said.

Dozens of Indian and Pakistani fishermen are captured in the Arabian Sea each year after straying across maritime borders.

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They often languish in prison even after serving their sentences, as poor diplomatic relations between the bitter nuclear foes hamper bureaucracy.

Relations between India and Pakistan have plummeted since a deadly attack on an Indian army base in the disputed region of Kashmir in September that New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

There have since been repeated outbreaks of cross-border firing, with both sides reporting deaths and injuries.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Both claim the Himalayan territory in full and have fought two wars over the mountainous region.

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