Pakistan said Friday it will free 71 imprisoned Indian fishermen as "a goodwill gesture" ahead of talks with its longtime rival. The Foreign Ministry said that the Indians had been arrested after straying in Pakistani territorial waters, but that the prisoners would be released Tuesday when talks between the nuclear-armed rivals begin.
"The Government of Pakistan has decided as a goodwill gesture to release 71 Indian fishermen," the ministry said in a statement. Pakistan didn't say when the Indians were detained or if others would remain in jail. The hand-over was to take place at the Wagha border post on Tuesday, as two days of talks among Pakistani and Indian Interior and Home Ministry officials begin in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.
Pakistan and India routinely arrest the other nations' fishermen for alleged border violations in the Arabian Sea. Many are held for years before being released. Pakistan and India share a history of bitter relations mainly because of their dispute over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, which both claim. In 2004 the two South Asian rival nations began a series of negotiations to settle Kashmir and other disputes. They also agreed to work for the quick release of arrested fishermen, reports the AP.
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