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Pakistan approves exchange of Kashmir detainees with India

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif (AFP photo)

Pakistani authorities have endorsed a proposal from India on exchange of prisoners that could also cover detainees from the disputed Kashmir region.

Pakistani Foreign Ministry's spokesman Mohammad Faisal said on Wednesday that exchange of prisoners between the two neighboring countries would cover all those held by either side that fall within the category of “humanitarian grounds.”

Faisal said based on the criteria, the exchanges would be broader than the conflict in Kashmir and those held in India and Pakistan over the issue.

India’s Foreign Ministry said its proposal for exchange of detainees included women, mentally ill or disabled people, and the elderly held by either side. It added that Pakistan endorsed the initiative and in turn proposed that the exchange also cover those under 18 and over 60 years of age.

In a hint that the swap was linked to the Kashmir conflict, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said on Wednesday that such moves could help de-escalate the situation in the disputed Himalayan region.

India and Kashmir have been locked over Kashmir for decades as the two nuclear armed rivals continue to claim the region in its entirety. The dispute is mostly concentrated on a crisis in the Indian-controlled Kashmir, where the majority Muslim population has been seeking independence from India or a merger with Pakistan.

New Delhi has accused Islamabad of providing training and weapons to the militia in Kashmir. Indian authorities say Pakistan has stepped up its interference in Kashmir over the past two years, resulting in more violence in the region.

Pakistan denies any involvement but insists it will continue to provide moral and diplomatic support for the Kashmirs who live under India’s control.

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