Pakistani nationals Attari Wagah
Pakistani nationals who were stranded in India due to the closure of borders following coronavirus pandemic, wave before crossing the India-Pakistan Wagah Border Post, during Unlock 2.0, in Attari, Thursday, July 9, 2020. Image Credit: PTI

Islamabad: Pakistan and India agreed to open their borders to facilitate the return of around 200 nationals stuck in both the countries since March 2020 after the closure of borders due to the pandemic.

Around 75 Pakistani nationals returned home on Thursday while over 100 Indians stranded in Pakistan were also to return to their homeland.

Pakistan and Indian officials agreed to facilitate the repatriation of their nationals as a gesture of humanitarian assistance and upon repeated appeals made to both Islamabad and New Delhi by the worried relatives on both sides. Returnees would be tested for COVID-19 and have to stay in quarantine before going home.

Indian nationals Pakistan Amritsar border Wagah
Indian nationals previously stranded in Pakistan stand near a bus transporting them to a quarantine facility in Amritsar amid concerns over the COVID-19 coronavirus, after they returned to India near the India-Pakistan Wagah border post, about 35 kms from Amritsar on July 9, 2020. Image Credit: AFP

Sidelining their mounting bilateral tensions the Pakistan and Indian interior ministry officials decided to open the Wagah-Attari border so that about 200 nationals from both the states can re-join their family after three months.

The gesture was appreciated by a western foreign diplomat who refused to be named but expressed hope that such humanitarian efforts may help reduce continuous tensions and border clashes.

Last week, nearly 100 Pakistani and Indian diplomats went back to their countries when Islamabad and New Delhi decided to scale down the diplomatic presence in each country.

On July 7, 2020, Indian Home Ministry confirmed to Pakistan that 75 Pakistani nationals from Indian cities including New Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Haryana would be repatriated via the Attari border of India on June 9. Similarly, Pakistan agreed to facilitate the return of 114 Indian nationals via Wagah border to India.

In May 2020, at least 193 Pakistani citizens, stranded in India after the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, were repatriated. Most of the Pakistanis included women and children and some belonged to the Hindu community from Tharparkar in Sindh and went to India to meet their relatives and friends.