New Delhi, May 7 - Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Asif Ali Zardari have underlined the need to move step-by-step and find pragmatic and mutually acceptable solutions to India-Pakistan bilateral issue, government told the Lok Sabha today.
"President of Pakistan, during his meeting with the Prime Minister on April 8, 2012, pointed out the need for all issues in the bilateral relationship, including Sir Creek, Siachen and Jammu and Kashmir, to be addressed," Defence Minister A K Antony said.
The Minister was asked whether in view of the recent avalanche resulting in heavy casualties in an area in Pakistan-controlled Siachen, Islamabad had requested India for withdrawal of troops from the glacier.
"Both leaders felt the need to move forward step-by-step and find pragmatic and mutually acceptable solutions to all those issues," the Defence Minister said in a written reply.
Zardari had met Singh during a brief stopover here on his way to pilgrimage in Ajmer in Rajasthan. He was accompanied by his son Bilawal Bhutto.
During the meeting, Singh had offered to Pakistan humanitarian assistance in search and rescue of 135 people, mostly soldiers, who were buried under snow after a massive had avalanche hit a key Pakistani army camp in the Siachen sector on April seven.
Replying to a question on details about Indian prisoners of war (PoWs) languishing in Pakistani jails, Antony said, "54 missing defence personnel of 1965 and 1971 wars are believed to be in the custody of Pakistan."
Noting that India has repeatedly been taking up the matter with Pakistan, he said, "Pakistan does not acknowledge the presence of any such personnel in its custody."
A delegation of 14 relatives of missing defence personnel had visited 10 jails in Pakistan in June 2007. However, "the delegation could not conclusively confirm the physical presence of any missing defence personnel," Antony said.
On allowances and facilities being provided to the families of these missing defence personnel, he said they were being given "liberalised pensionary and rehabilitation benefits are per the extant rules".
He also cited in this regard a judgement of the Gujarat High Court in December 2011.
"... Orders have been issued for compliance of judgement passed by the High Court of Gujarat regarding payment of service and retirement benefits to the next of kin of the missing defence personnel, believed to be in the custody in Pakistan, as if they had retired on superannuation," Antony said. PTI