New Delhi: After deciding to put all bilateral engagements with Pakistan on hold pending a climbdown on Kulbhushan Jadhav’s death sentence, India is planning to escalate the diplomatic offensive by restricting visas only on humanitarian grounds, including health reasons, to Pakistani citizens.
Sources said the government is considering to sharply reduce or even stop visas for all purposes other than medical and hospitalisation. Such a decision will hit Pakistani citizens’ travel to India for leisure, tourism, cultural exchanges, including cinema and sports. The government is also planning to review business and religious pilgrimage visas offered to Pakistani citizens. Earlier, the norms in these categories were relaxed to a great extent by the government.
Though the curbs will also come at some cost to India, the government is ready to go ahead to reflect what foreign minister Sushma Swaraj had announced in Parliament that India will go to any extent to provide justice to Jadhav. One such cost is being borne out by the 442 Indian fishermen languishing in Pakistani jails. Most of these fishermen belong to coastal Gujarat and were expected to be released at the end of the now-postponed bilateral talks on Maritime Security between the two countries from April 17 to 20.
The annual Maritime security talks between Indian Coast Guards and Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) usually lead to the decision of releasing a large number of these fishermen who inadvertently cross over into the Pakistan maritime zone in search of good catch that they often get there.
In comparison, there are only 70 Pakistani fishermen in Indian jails. India side of the Arabian sea is not good for fishing because of pollutants and warmer current.
“India has set a bad precedent by postponing these talks. Kulbhushan Jadhav and maritime security are two different issues and should not be mixed. What is the fault of these 442 fishermen. Why make them suffer in diplomacy,” said Jatin Desai of Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy.
India has never taken diplomatic escalation to such a level, even during Kargil conflict and 1971 war, the annual engagements like meeting of Water Commissioners on Indus water treaty went on as usual, added Desai.
Unhappy with the development, Jeevan Jhungi, an activist in Porbandar, Gujarat, said the news has come as a blow to the fishermen’s families who were anxiously waiting for their release at the end of these talks. There are fishermen languishing in Pakistani jails since 2009, he said.
Meanwhile, in what could add to the tension, Police in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir claimed on Saturday, arresting three suspected Research and Analysis Wing agents for their alleged involvement in anti-state activities.
The masked suspects were produced before the media during a briefing in Rawalkot, Dawn newspaper reported.
According to the report, Sajid Imran, Deputy Superintendent of Police in Poonch, said the main suspect Khalil had visited Kashmir in November 2014, where he came in contact with R&AW officials.
The three suspects were involved in a bomb blast outside a police station in Abbaspur in September, said the DSP, claiming that Khalil was offered Rs 5 lakh for the task.