The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pak boys set to go home

New Delhi, Aug. 29: India today brushed aside the failure of the civil aviation talks by talking business and paving the way for the release of six Pakistani boys.

South Block today allowed the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi consular access to the six boys, all of whom are below 18, to let officials ascertain their nationality.

“Once that (nationality) is established, they would be taken to the Wagah border and handed over to the Pakistani Rangers,” foreign ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna said. The Hindu boys have been in Indian custody for almost 15 months after straying across the border.

Further boosting the peace process after yesterday’s setback in Rawalpindi, the Centre also approved a Confederation of Indian Industry proposal to organise an exhibition in Delhi for Pakistani businessmen. The CII has also suggested a chief executive officers’ forum and a joint website to help businessmen in both countries access trading opportunities across the border.

Sarna emphasised that the aviation reversal would not be allowed to come in the way of normalising relations. “We are trying to take the peace process forward by steps that would contribute to strengthening people-to-people contact. We hope Pakistan would reciprocate in a positive manner,” he said.

The aviation talks ran into rough weather after Islamabad insisted on a mechanism preventing unilateral suspension of overflights by either side.

Today’s decisions will help Delhi tell the Pakistani people and the world, at large, that India is trying to promote the peace process despite Islamabad’s rigidity. The process was initiated by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in April.

Officials here clarified that the boys’ religion had nothing to do with the Centre’s decision as they were being considered Pakistani nationals.

The authorities had realised that Ramji Koli, Premji Lauji Koli, Hira Prabha Koli, Karshan Bhemaji Koli, Sonu Koli and Sava Koli had carelessly strayed into Gujarat at various times last year.

Officials from the Pakistan mission started interviewing the boys today.

Though India is yet to receive a formal response from them, the officials hinted that the entire process might take about a week.

Indications are more Pakistani boys who had strayed into India would be released within the next few days.

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