KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) – Pakistan will release 360 Indian prisoners this month, the foreign office said on Friday, as the nuclear-armed neighbors scale back from a confrontation that prompted world powers to urge restraint.
Tension has been running high since a suicide car bombing by Pakistan-based militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police on Feb. 14, but the risk of conflict rose dramatically on Feb. 27, when India launched an air strike on what it said was a militant training base.
The following day Pakistan shot down an Indian fighter jet and captured its pilot who was later released.
“Pakistan has decided that 360 Indian prisoners – having breakup of 355 fishermen and five civilians, who have completed their term of sentence, will be released,” Mohammad Faisal, spokesman for the Pakistan Foreign Office, told reporters.
He said the prisoners would be released in four batches starting from April 8.
Due to the rocky relations between the two sides, prisoners who have completed their jail terms often languish in each other’s jails for months, if not years, afterwards.
According to the lists exchanged by both sides in January, there are 347 Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails, 249 of whom are what the spokesman described as civilians and 98 fishermen.
There are 537 Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails, 483 of whom are fishermen.
“We hope that India will reciprocate this,” the foreign office spokesman said.
Pakistan’s F-16 combat jets have all been accounted for, U.S.-based Foreign Policy magazine said, citing U.S. officials, contradicting an Indian air force assessment that it had shot down one of the jets in the February standoff.
Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan; Editing by Nick Macfie