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EDITORIAL: Since 1992 as per 1988 agreement on Prohibition of Attacks against Nuclear Installations and Facilities between Pakistan and India their foreign ministries exchange lists of such repositories on the first of January of very calendar year.

Under the Consular Access Agreement of 1988, they also exchange on January 1 and June 1 every year the lists of prisoners in each other’s custody. Even when there were incidents potentially aggravating enough to spark wider conflicts between the two the exchange of these two lists was never put off.

So Pakistan and India on Sunday exchanged lists of nuclear installations and facilities and details of prisoners in each other’s custody.

As to what is listed as a nuclear installation and facility for the purpose of agreement remains state secret, but the other list doesn’t withhold - at least on the face of it - the number of prisoners in each other’s custody.

Islamabad has conveyed to New Delhi that 705 Indian prisoners - 51 civilian prisoners and 654 fishermen - are in its custody.

The New Delhi’s list of Pakistani prisoners comprises 339 civilian prisoners and 95 fishermen. And Pakistan has also asked India to release and repatriate 51 civilians and 94 fishermen who have served out their respective sentences and their national status was confirmed.

Given the fishermen’s inability to measure the buffeting ocean waves and to know where the maritime boundaries of the two countries touch each other, they are an easy prey and invariably arrested by the sea wardens of Pakistan and India.

Despite having been verified as fishermen by profession they continue to rot in jails, as some die before serving out their sentences while some others become mentally challenged. Isn’t the time that the two governments evolve a human approach towards their plight, much of which stems from their ignorance and unmanageable sea waves?

On the nuclear front, the exchange of lists is indeed a positive move. But is this arrangement enough to ensure that there would never be a nuclear Armageddon in South Asia? In fact, many strategic researchers find the nuclear potentials of the two countries as the main reason for no-war situation since 1998 when they successfully conducted the nuclear weapon tests. And so is the case world over.

But quite a few people still find deterrence-bound nuclear peace a false dream. They argue that the nuclear clash will not be by design; it would be accidental. It was in March last year that India fired a BrahMos missile into Pakistan, claiming that it had fired it “accidentally”.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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Vijayan M J Jan 10, 2023 10:23am
Kindly note that the consular access agreement was in 2008
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