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Pakistan To Free 218 Indians Caught Fishing In Territorial Waters

A previously released Indian fisherman after crossing over to India in July 2015.

Pakistan on January 5 began releasing 218 Indian fishermen who had strayed into its waters, with officials calling it a "goodwill gesture" aimed at easing tensions with its neighbor.

The men were arrested more than a year ago, accused of entering Pakistani waters in an area of the Arabian Sea where the border is disputed.

A further 100 fishermen remain in prison, waiting for the Indian High Commission to confirm their nationality as they serve sentences of at least six months each, officials said.

Dozens of Indian and Pakistani fishermen are captured in the Arabian Sea each year after straying across maritime borders.

They often languish in prison even after serving their sentences, as poor diplomatic relations between the nuclear-armed rivals hampers resolution of their cases.

Relations between India and Pakistan have plummeted since a deadly attack on an Indian army base in the disputed region of Kashmir in September that New Delhi blamed on the Pakistan-based Islamist group Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Since then, intermittent talks on a range of issues, including their disputed maritime border, have stalled.

In the past, gestures such as the release of imprisoned fishermen have helped to improve the atmosphere for a resumption of talks.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP