South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

For once, the usual cat and mouse game between Pakistan Marine Security Agency (PMSA) and Indian fishermen turned into an emotional drama of saving one another as hours after Indian fishermen saved two drowning sailors of the Pakistan agency, the PMSA released 62 fishermen along with their 10 boats on Monday.

PMSA had apprehended 42 fishermen on board seven fishing trawlers while they were operating near the notional International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) off Jakhau coast over Saturday and Sunday. According to a release by the Indian Coast Guard, PMSA headquarters contacted Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Mumbai at 8:30 PM on Sunday and informed the Indian authorities that a PMSA speed boat with six crew on board had gone missing while on routine patrol off IMBL. The reported position was 59 nautical miles west of Jakhau.

In Response, the Coast Guard diverted Indian Coast Guard ship Ankit, which was patrolling the area for search and rescue operation. On March 10, two other Coast Guard ships Samrat and Arinjay also joined the search and rescue operation. A Dornier plane and a helicopter were also pressed into service by the Coast Guard to rescue the sailors.

The rigid inflatable boat of PMSA had sank due to ingress of seawater on the morning of Sunday. The Coast Guard release further stated that Pakistan also deployed one Naval ship, one PMSA ship and aircraft for locating the sinking boat and the sailors on the Pakistani side of the IMBL.

Eventually, at about 10:20 am on Monday, Indian fishing trawler DhanshreeChamunda informed Coast Guard ship Samrat that they had rescued two persons suspected to be sailors of PMSA. The Coast Guard took custody of the two survivors and gave medical treatment to one of them as his condition had deteriorated due to prolonged exposure to seawater.

“The survivors were part of the Pakistani law enforcement team who had drifted into Indian waters when their boat with six crew members sank due to ingress of sea water on 9th April, 2017 morning. Subsequent search operation yielded recovery of bodies of other four crew members of which three were recovered by ICG ships Arinjay and Ankit. Both the PMSA personnel and the four dead bodies have been handed over to Pakistani Naval ship which was operating across the IMBL,” added the Coast Guard.

Hours after this search and rescue operation got over, the PMSA released 62 Indian fishermen along with their nine fishing boats. These fishermen were apprehended by PMSA on Saturday and Sunday for allegedly violating territorial waters of Pakistan and were being taken to Pakistan when they were released mid-sea after other fishermen helped rescue two sailors of PMSA.

“In fact 10 Indian fishing trawlers had been detained along with 62 fishermen on board. But engine of one of the boats had failed and it is reported missing. After the PMSA released them on Monday, seven boats reached Porbandar port at 9 pm on Tuesday. The fishermen were questioned by Coast Guard and other agencies. After their identities were verified and nothing suspicious was found about them, they were released,” Rakesh Bajpai, assistant director fisheries at Porbandar told The Indian Express on Wednesday.

Bajpai further said that the other two boats had been heading toward Okha port in Devbhoomi Dwarka district. A fisheries officer in Okha confirmed to The Indian Express that Al Ya Panjatan ka Vasila, the boat which had been “abandoned by PMSA after arresting fishermen on board it,” had been towed to Okha port at around 5 on Wednesday.

PMSA arrest hundreds of fishermen, mostly Gujarati, every fishing season citing violation of its territorial waters. Fishermen spend years in Pakistani jails before being released and sent back to India. Pakistan had released 439 fishermen in two batches in December and January this year.

Jatin Desai, general secretary of Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) welcomed the gesture by agencies of both the countries. “This shows that there is goodwill between people and authorities of the both the countries. It is very encouraging sign,” said Desai.


Updated On: 14.04.2017