In what can be called as a briliant beginning ahead of the PM-designate Narendra Modi's swearing-in ceremony, two neighbouring conutries of India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan on Sunday released Indian fishermen as a goodwill measure.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has ordered the release of all Indian fishermen arrested by the Lankan Navy for poaching whereas Pakistan on Sunday freed 151 Indian fishermen, a day ahead of the visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to India to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Modi.
Welcoming the goodwill gesture, Modi posted on microblogging website twitter - “I welcome the step by Sri Lanka & Pakistan to release our fishermen. I welcome our fishermen brothers back home!”
I welcome the step by Sri Lanka & Pakistan to release our fishermen. I welcome our fishermen brothers back home!
In March, Rajapaksa had ordered the release of arrested fishermen after India abstained from voting on an anti-Sri Lanka motion at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
India was one of the 12 nations that abstained from voting on the UNHRC resolution, which prescribed an international probe into Sri Lanka's alleged rights abuses.
India had previously backed two similar resolutions against Sri Lanka moved by the United States.
Sri Lankan fisheries ministry officials, however, could not indicate the number of Indian fishermen currently in detention.
On the other hand, Pakistani authorities on Sunday released 59 Indian fishermen from the Malir jail in Karachi and another 92 from Nara jail in Hyderabad in Sindh province.
Syed Nazir Hussain, the superintendent of the Malir jail in Karachi, told PTI that the Indian prisoners were released on written directives of the interior and foreign ministries.
"Most of these prisoners are poor Indian fishermen who were arrested and brought here for trespassing into Pakistani territorial waters," he said.
The freed prisoners were taken in an air-conditioned bus from Karachi to Wagah border in Lahore from where they will be handed over to Indian authorities.
Justice (retd) Aslam Nasir Zahid who heads a legal aid NGO said the government had cooperated completely in the release of the prisoners.
Last year in August, Pakistan had released around 337 Indian prisoners from jails. Later on Diwali also, 15 Indian fishermen were released as a goodwill gesture.
During his meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday, Modi had invited all the leaders of member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to attend the swearing-in ceremony. But his move to invite Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has aroused political backlash.
While Congress has critised PM-designate Narendra Modi of having 'double-standards' with regards to Pakistan, parties in the South are protesting the invite issued to Rajapaksa.
Sharif's's nod to India's invitation is seen as a positive note but with Rajapaksa accepting the invitation, sources in AIADMK said Jayalalithaa may skip the event and depute a senior leader to take part in the ceremony.
Sharif will not just attend the event on Monday but also hold bilateral talks with Modi on Tuesday.
Other key SAARC leaders, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom have confirmed that they will attend the ceremony.
Modi along with his Cabinet ministers will be sworn-in at 6 PM tomorrow and about 3,000 people are expected to be present in the Rashtrapati Bhawan forecourt for the ceremony.
Preparations are underway for Modi's oath-taking ceremony tomorrow in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhawan.
The BJP won a massive mandate in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls bagging 282 seats on its own, crossing the half-way mark of 272 and along with its allies it won 335 seats. The Congress on the other hand was decimated ending up with just 44 seats.