New Delhi: Pakistan has not acknowledged the presence of any missing Indian defence personnel or Prisoners of War (PoWs) in its custody so far, despite consistent efforts from India to ensure their release and repatriation from the neighbouring country, the government said on Wednesday.
In a written reply in Lok Sabha to a question on the number of Indian PoWs during the Indo-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971, the government said that as per available information, around 83 missing Indian defence personnel, including PoWs, are believed to be in Pakistan's custody.
"Besides, as per available information, there are 64 Indian and believed-to-be Indian civilian prisoners and 209 Indian and believed-to-be Indian fishermen in Pakistan's custody. Pakistan has, on 1 July 2019, acknowledged the custody of 52 civilian prisoners and 209 fishermen," Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said.
He also said that the government has secured the release and repatriation of 2,110 Indian prisoners, including fishermen, from Pakistan's custody since 2014. "This includes release and repatriation of 362 Indian prisoners, including fishermen, this year, so far," the Union Minister stated.
In October 2017, the then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had suggested to the High Commissioner of Pakistan that the two sides could work to resolve humanitarian issues related to elderly, women and mentally unsound prisoners in each other's custody and consider their early release and repatriation.
"It was, inter alia, proposed to revive the mechanism of Joint Judicial Committee and that a team of Indian medical experts could be allowed to visit the mentally unsound prisoners with a view to facilitate their nationality verification and subsequent repatriation. Pakistan responded positively on March 7, 2018," Muraleedharan said.
He informed the House that although New Delhi has already shared the details of the medical experts' team and the re-constituted Joint Judicial Committee with Pakistan with the request to organise their visit, Islamabad has not responded so far.
Replying to a question on MEA officials facing corruption charges, Muraleedharan informed the House that 24 officials in the ministry including its missions/posts abroad are currently facing disciplinary proceedings, including one staff on contract at the local level.
"As the officials of the Ministry of External Affairs represent the country abroad, the Ministry attaches utmost importance to probity and follows the policy of zero tolerance towards cases involving corruption and violation of conduct rules of the government," he said.
The minister said that investigations are carried on priority and a suitable penalty is imposed if the charges are proved.
"Ministry also strictly enforces preventive vigilance by way of issuing and reiterating extant rules and guidelines, conducting periodic inspections in missions/posts abroad and extending full cooperation to investigating agencies as and when required," Muraleedharan stated.