ISLAMABAD: A group of 82 Pakistanis stranded in India because of travel restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak are scheduled to return to Pakistan on Thursday, the foreign office said on Tuesday.
On Monday, the Indian government had requested local authorities to assist in the movement of Pakistani nationals to the Attari-Wagah border crossing from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab.
The Pakistan government has also directed Pakistan’s paramilitary Rangers to help repatriate Indian citizens via Wagah following “necessary health security protocols.”
“We are expecting our stranded nationals to return on July 9,” foreign office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui told Arab News, adding that 114 Indian nationals would be repatriated to India that day and 82 Pakistanis would cross back into Pakistan.
Around 500 Pakistanis stranded in India have returned home via the Attari-Wagah crossing since March 20, the foreign office said, adding that the process would continue until all remaining nationals had returned.
“In these extraordinary times defined by the coronavirus pandemic, Pakistan believes that international cooperation and collective action as one big human family is the need of the hour,” Farooqui said. “On our part we have cooperated within the region and beyond to facilitate our own nationals and those visiting Pakistan from abroad to repatriate to their countries as smoothly as possible.”
Arch-rivals for decades, relations between India and Pakistan have been particularly strained since August 2019 when Pakistan suspended almost all trade and transport ties with India after New Delhi revoked autonomy and statehood for the Himalayan Kashmir region it administers — territory also claimed by Islamabad.
Neither country currently has a permanent ambassador in place and in the last month, ties have worsened as each country has accused the other of illegally detaining and torturing its diplomats.
In May, India expelled two Pakistani diplomats after they were held for alleged spying, claims Islamabad has called “baseless”. India also said last month it would expel half the staff in Pakistan’s embassy in New Delhi over alleged spying by officials there, prompting Islamabad to say it would respond in kind.