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President Musharraf of Pakistan visited India in July 2001 for talks about improving the relationship between the two countries by trying to solve the Kashmir issue. The Indians, as always trying to avoid the core issue of Kashmir, immediately started to make excuses so they could deflect the world attention from the Kashmir problem. Among other things, the Indians accused Pakistan of still holding 54 Indian POWs from the 1971 war. The following news pieces, most of them from Indian papers, will go a long way towards proving that this whole issue was a smoke screen created by India to avoid the Kashmir problem and to get Pakistan in a defensive position during the summit.

One cannot deny the fact that war is an ugly business. People do get injured or killed. Many times people disappear and are never found, dead or alive. It is not impossible per se that soldiers are declared MIA (Missing In Action) after a war.

But there is something strange about these Indian claims. First of all, it is claimed that these 54 Indians were POWs. In which case they should have been released when the two countries, India and Pakistan, exchanged POWs after the war. Why did the Indians not raise the issue of these people at that time? Could it be that these people were actually MIAs and that by claiming them to be alive and languishing in Pakistani prisons India is trying to pressure Pakistan into a more defensive stance during these talks? If this is the case, then it is a truly heinous and deplorable act on the part of the Indian government, whic by doing this is not only deceiving the world, but also wreaking emotional havoc on the relatives of those Indian soldiers.

It is also interesting to note that while the Indian government officials made a lot of noise about these POWs during the Agra talks, nothing has been heard on the issue from these same officials afterwards. The Ansar Burney Trust, a human rights group in Pakistan, has repeatedly contacted the Indian government to help in the effort of locating these prisoners, but the Indians have not even bothered to answer the trust.

Also, by creating such smoke screens, the Indians are trying to hide their own abysmal record with regard to POWs. There are at least a couple of thousand of Pakistani POWs still languishing in Indian jails. Despite repeated efforts by the Pakistan government and human rights groups to get these people freed, the Indians even deny the fact that these people exist. Contrary to Pakistan, which has allowed both relatives of alleged Indian POWs as well as human rights organizations to come and search Pakistani jails for alleged POWs, India has never allowed anybody to carry out a similar search in Indian prisons. Which leads one to the question: What has India got to hide?

There have also been reports of some unfortunate Chinese POWs who have been imprisoned in India since the 1962 Sino-Indian war. What about their rights? When is India going to let them go back to their country?

One can easily see that India is violating all international rules about human rights and the treatment of POWs. It remains to be seen what the world community is going to do about this outrage.

Pakistan Index