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Pak releases 17 Indian prisoners as goodwill gesture

world Updated: Jun 23, 2010 19:54 IST

PTI
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Pakistan released 17 Indian prisoners Wednesday as a goodwill gesture, a day ahead of Foreign Secretary-level talks aimed at bridging the trust deficit between the two neighbours.

The prisoners were handed over to India's Border Security Force at the Wagah land border near this eastern Pakistani city, Pakistan Rangers spokesman Nadeem Raza told reporters.

Officials from Pakistan's Interior Ministry and the Indian High Commission in Islamabad were present on the occasion.

The prisoners were arrested and given prison terms by courts for a variety of offences like overstaying in Pakistan, smuggling and illegally crossing the frontier.

Talking to the media before they crossed the border, the prisoners expressed joy at their release and thanked the Pakistani government.

They said they were happy to know that they would soon be reunited with their families.

Raza said all the freed prisoners had completed their jail terms. Hundreds of Indians and Pakistanis, including scores of fishermen, are languishing in prisons in both countries on charges of spying or illegal entry.

Efforts to speed up the release of prisoners suffered a setback when relations were strained by the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

The Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan are set to hold talks in Islamabad Thursday to find ways to bridge the trust deficit between the two sides and to prepare the ground for a meeting of the Foreign Ministers on July 15.

Home Minister P Chidambaram will arrive in Islamabad on June 25 to attend a meeting of SAARC Interior Ministers the following day.

He will also hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik.