The Armed Forces, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of External Affairs have completely different figures of PoWs which itself raises doubts about the seriousness of the government's initiative to get the long-delayed release of the Indians from the clutches of the Pakistani authorities.
In an RTI reply, the MEA has disclosed that 74 PoWS may be in the Pakistani custody whereas the Ministry of Defence said there could be just 54 PoWs who were taken into the custody during the 1965 and 1971 wars.
"If the government does not have a concrete data, how can they pursue the PoWs cases strongly with their counterparts in Islamabad. The agencies dealing with the issue are not unanimous with the figures," says P Hari Kumar, a Kerala student, who sought the information about the number of PoWs from Army, Navy, Air Force, Ministry of Defence and External Affairs.
Army claimed that a total of six officers, nine JCO's and 240 personnel of other ranks of Army were reported missing in the 1971 Indo-Pak War.
"These personnel were later declared missing, presumed dead or confirmed killed. Two officers and 17 personnel of other ranks have been reported missing after 1971. Whether these missing persons are in Pakistani jails or not cannot be confirmed," the RTI reply said.
While the Indian Navy said none of its personnel was taken by the enemy as PoW, the Indian Air Force feigned complete ignorance saying that such information is not held by them.
The government is now sending small teams of relatives of PoWs to various Pakistani jails to look for their dear ones.
"In pursuance of the efforts of locating Indian prisoners of wars, the government took up the matter with Pakistani authorities for sending a delegation of the families of the missing defence personnel so that they can visit various jails in Pakistan and help identify Indian Prisoners of Wars," the reply read.
"It has now been decided to send a delegation of relatives of PoWs to Pakistan. A list of 15 relatives of PoWs has been approved by Ministry of External Affairs and the modalities regarding their visit to various jails in Pakistan are being worked out. The Pakistan Government and the Indian Embassy in Pakistan are being consulted," the government said.