Nearly 340 Indian fishermen held by Pakistan for violating territorial waters crossed the border on Saturday after they were freed amid high tensions over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.
The move is part of an understanding between the nuclear-armed rivals to release those who mistakenly stray into each other’s waters.
It came after weeks of cross-border firing in Kashmir, with the two countries’ military forces blaming each other for the unrest.
“All 337 Indian fishermen, including seven juveniles, crossed the border into India from Wagah crossing point near Lahore,” said Rizwanullah Jamili, a senior official of an aid group facilitating prisoners’ release.
The release had been sped up by Pakistan as a goodwill gesture to India amid increasing tensions.
Sporadic firing in recent weeks across the heavily militarized Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border in Kashmir, has sent tensions between the neighbors soaring.
Kashmir has been in dispute since India and Pakistan gained independence from Britain in 1947, with both sides claiming it in full but controling only part, and violence flares there from time to time.
The latest round was triggered by a raid on Aug. 5 that left five Indian soldiers dead, with the incident blamed by New Delhi on the Pakistani military. Islamabad has denied the claims and struck a conciliatory tone, urging restraint and dialog.
Fishermen from both countries are frequently held for straying across the disputed and poorly defined maritime boundary in the Arabian Sea.
There are still 97 Indian fishermen and three other Indian nationals, including a juvenile, languishing in jails in Karachi.