ISLAMABAD: A group of 82 Pakistanis stranded in India due to COVID-19 travel restrictions will return to Pakistan on July 9, the Pakistani Foreign Office said on Tuesday.
The Indian government on Monday asked local authorities to assist the movement of Pakistani nationals to the Attari-Wagah border crossing from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
The Pakistani government has also directed one of its paramilitary forces, known as the Rangers, to help repatriate Indian citizens via Wagah, while following “necessary health security protocols.”
Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said: “We are expecting our stranded nationals to return on July 9.” She added that 114 Indian nationals would be repatriated to India that day, while 82 Pakistanis would cross back into Pakistan.
About 500 Pakistanis stranded in India have returned home through the Attari-Wagah crossing since March 20, according to the Foreign Office. It said the process will continue until all remaining nationals have returned.
“In these extraordinary times defined by the 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 them as smoothly as possible,” she added.
Archrivals for decades, relations between India and Pakistan have been particularly strained since August 2019, when Pakistan suspended almost all trade and transport ties with its neighbor following India’s decision to revoke autonomy and statehood for Kashmir, a territory also claimed by Pakistan.
Neither country has a permanent ambassador in place. In the last month, tensions have risen after country 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 called “baseless”.
Last month India said it would expel half of the staff in the Pakistani embassy in New Delhi over further spying allegations, prompting Pakistan to threaten an equal response.