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80 Indians to be freed from Pak jails soon

The identity and other details of the prisoners had been verified and their release process should begin soon, Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma said.

india Updated: Apr 22, 2006 14:35 IST

The identity and other details relating to 80 Indians lodged in Pakistani jails had been verified and their release process should begin soon, Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma said in Chandigarh on Tuesday.

Sharma, who was asked at a media interactionabout the number of Indians in Pakistani jails, said the Government had in January this year got consular access and there were procedural requirements which needed to be completed like establishing identity of those lodged in prisons before they are released.

Touching upon the steps taken to improve ties with Pakistan, he referred to starting of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad, Amritsar-Lahore and Amritsar-Nankana Sahib bus services as "significant milestones".

"Our relationship with Pakistan is particularly important for the people of Punjab. A major effort has been made to improve the people-to-people contacts as we believe that this is one way of healing the wounds of history," he said.

Sharma said India was also keen to see that trade and commerce activities between the two countries grow simultaneously and added that efforts in the direction of opening up direct trade link were also being made.

On opening up the Wagah border for business transactions between the neighbours, he said India has already initiated for the implementation of SAFTA agreement, which could be helpful in facilitating trade among the SAARC countries.

He said recently, there was a trade expo in Amritsar in which many Pakistani companies had participated, an indication that they too were keen on enhancing trade with India.

Asked if the purpose of starting the bus service between Amritsar and Nankana Sahib, the birth place of Sikh faith founder Guru Nanak, was lost when only four to five passengers travel on an average in the 42-seater bus due to "difficulties in procuring visas", he said the government will see to it that arrangements are made for quicker disposal of visas.

To a question, Joint Secretary in MEA, Dilip Sinha said at the moment the government had no proposal to open a visa office in Amritsar.

The Minister said India's foreign policy is being modified in accordance with the changing relations with other countries.

"We in the Ministry of External Affairs do not think that foreign policy can be delinked from the situation at home. It is, therefore, important for us to reach out to domestic audiences to explain why we are taking certain steps which may involve other countries, in particular, neighbouring nations," Sharma said.

He said this becomes all the more important in states which are directly impacted by India's foreign relations, like Punjab.

Sharma stressed that foreign policy is the "projection outward of what India is within. If India has achieved the status that is so evident in the world today, it is because of the fact that India has performed well at home."

With Indian economy growing at a rapid pace, major countries of the world were looking to invest here, he said, adding "the strides we have taken to improve our economy, agriculture and industry have made an impact on the world."

First Published: Apr 18, 2006 21:37 IST