India on Wednesday said it has sought consular access to two ‘innocent’ Indian nationals who are in Pakistan’s custody and hoped they don’t become victims of Pakistani propaganda.

“The day Pakistan acknowledged that two Indian nationals, Prashant Vaindan and Bari Lal, are in its custody, we approached the Pakistani authorities and sought consular access to them. We have also asked Pakistan not to harm them and ensure their early repatriation so that they can be reunited with their families,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said at a media briefing.

He said India believed that these two Indians had inadvertently crossed into Pakistan in 2016-2017. India had then also officially taken up the matter with Pakistan. “We had told the Pakistani authorities that in case these two Indians are located, their presence in Pakistan should be brought to our notice,” he added.

India had again brought to the notice of Pakistan the disappearance of Prashant in May 2019 and that of Lal in December 2018. The spokesperson said Pakistan did not respond to India’s note verbale and, therefore, Islamabad’s acknowledgment through the media that the two Indians were in its custody had come as a surprise to the Indian authorities.

Pakistan claimed on 14 November that it had arrested the two Indians from near a desert in Bahawalpur district. Prashant is said to be a software professional who is a native of Srikakulam district in Andhra Pradesh. He had reportedly come in contact with a woman through social media and fell in love with her. He wanted to go to Switzerland to meet her. He, however, ended up entering Pakistan through Rajasthan in 2017.

Lal, who hails from Madhya Pradesh, is said to be battling mental problems. His family had filed a missing person report in 2017.