PUDUCHERRY: With an aim to resolve the issue of fishermen from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka from crossing over into each other’s territorial waters for fishing and resulting in their getting arrested, Mohamad Naseegh Jaffer, Secretary General of the World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP), has called for a moratorium on arrests of fishermen, whether it is in Indian waters, Pakistani or Sri Lankan waters.
Speaking to mediapersons on the sidelines of a WFFP meeting here, he said, until there is substantive dialogue involving the government and the fishermen from the three countries, a viable solution could be reached.
Jaffer, who hails from South Africa, said he believes the issue can be resolved if there is mutual respect for fishers and for law enforcement.
“But if any government resorts to strong-arm tactics, then fishermen feel intimidated. For a fisherman, this is just a means to fend for his family. A fishermen should not be arrested or left to die for pursuing fishing as a source of livelihood,” he said, and added that the issue should be resolved through meaningful dialogue among all stakeholders.
Asked about the Palk Bay issue, he said, “As the border between India and Sri Lanka is very small, we recognise that it is difficult to achieve equity or sharing of the resources.”
That said, it is also important for both the countries to have an engagement, wherein both nations are prepared to make some sacrifices, and in this case, India can be a bit more lenient. The government of India can suitably compensate the Indian fishermen, if they are the ones prepared to make the bigger sacrifice, he said.
He suggested that the Indian government must provide some form of compensation for what fishers are giving up so that there can be equal sharing between the fishermen of Sri Lanka and India, especially in the Palk Bay region.
Buffer zonE, working Group MOOTED
The WFFP has welcomed the announcement by PM Narendra Modi and Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif to release the fishermen languishing in the jails of both countries. Mohamed Ali Sha, co-chairperson of WFFP, urged that the two countries should take steps to get the seized boats released. Sha, who hails from Pakistan, suggested that both the countries should create a buffer zone of 100 nautical miles between the two countries. He suggested the formation of a working group to resolve all the issues involving fishermen that arises on a daily basis. He said there are around 700 Indian boats in Pakistan’s custody, while some 500 Pakistani boats are with India. Also, there are 121 Pakistan fishermen in Indian jails, whereas 300 Indian fishermen are in Pakistani Jails.