At a time when relations between India and Pakistan have reached a new low in the wake of the beheading of two Indian jawans and awarding of capital punishment to businessman and former naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav on charges of spying, fishermen from Gujarat and Diu have requested the governments of the two neighbours for a no arrest policy, consular access and immediate release of captured boats.

The fishermen communities of Saurashtra region of Gujarat and union territory of Dui have requested Dr Shashi Tharoor, the Chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, to look into the issue.

Dr Tharoor, a former Minister of State for External Affairs and ex-Under Secretary General of the United Nations, and other members of the Standing Committee met fishermen last week in Porbunder and Diu.

“Lot of issues were discussed at the meeting,” peace activist Jatin Desai, General Secretary of India chapter of Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD), said in Mumbai on Sunday.

“There is an urgent need for a No Arrest Policy in the case of these fishermen. If Indian Coast Guard realizes Pakistani fishing boats have entered the Indian territory, then instead of arresting them, they should just be sent back. Pakistan’s Maritime Security Agency should act in a similar manner in case of Indian fishermen,” he said.

Besides, the Agreement on Consular Access, 2008, needs to be implemented in letter and spirit and both India and Pakistan should release all fishermen from their custody. Highlighting the issue of boats, he said: “Over the years, Pakistan has confiscated more than 900 boats of Indian fishermen. The average cost of a boat is Rs 50 lakhs. We believe that around 175 boats can be brought back with some repair work. Pakistan had released 57 Indian boats in March 2015 and they committed to release 22 more but that has not yet happened.”

Meanwhile, Bharat Mody, the President of the Porbandar Macchimar Boat Association, said: “For multiple reasons Indians and Pakistani fishermen crosses the maritime limits. It includes heavy stream, gusty wind, dark nights, failure of boat engines etc. Also, in the absence of proper knowledge of the border, fishermen get arrested. These fishermen are not indulging in any illegal activities. They catch only fish.”

The IMBL between India and Pakistan is still under dispute and it should resolved on a priority basis, he said.

Source: http://www.deccanherald.com/

Updated On:  May 7 2017