India and Pakistan began crucial talks in Islamabad yesterday on combating terrorism, drug trafficking and liberalising the visa regime under the composite dialogue process, as authorities freed 101 Indian prisoners, most of them fishermen in a goodwill gesture.
Indian Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta and his Pakistani counterpart Syed Kamal Shah met to discuss issues of terrorism, afflicting both the countries, with New Delhi expected to dwell upon Islamabad for extradition of some of the most wanted fugitives like Dawood Ibrahim, wanted in 1993 Bombay blasts cases.
There is expected to be focus also on the exchange of civilian prisoners and a proposal to liberalise the visa regime as well as illegal immigration, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and counterfeit currency during the day-long talks, officials said.Even as the talks got underway in Islamabad, Pakistani authorities freed 99 Indian fishermen from a jail in the southern port city of Karachi and two other prisoners from another jail in Karachi.
The fishermen, arrested between 2002 and 2006, were put on two buses that would take them to Lahore, for passage back home through the Wagah land border on Wednesday.
Before his departure from India, Gupta told media-persons on Monday that Delhi expected pro-active cooperation from Islamabad in dealing with security issues. "The whole purpose is to try and see that there can be an improvement in relations across a wide range of issues," he said.
One of the elements of the composite dialogue, Gupta said relates to security matters, terrorism, drug trafficking and other issues like prisoners of both countries in each other's jails, fishermen who keep getting caught and visa regulations and regimes.Pakistani officials have indicated that they plan to raise recent disclosures about the alleged involvement of Hindu radical elements in last year's bombing of the Samjhauta Express train service during the talks. Nearly 70 people, a majority of them Pakistanis, were killed in the attack.