NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s coastal policy is paying dividends. The number of fishermen straying into each other’s waters along the 1,600-km long Gujarat coastline, responsible for triggering diplomatic squabbling with Pakistan, is declining.
From a whopping 250 boats caught each year by Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) till late 2010, the figure has dropped to just 45 boats this year. Enhanced communication has reduced hostilities between the neighbours on the maritime boundary. However, the land border with Pakistan continues to be tense with frequent ceasefire violations aiding terrorists to infiltrate.
According to a recent assessment by the Indian Navy and Coast Guard on the Gujarat coastline, there has been a sharp decline in the number of Indian fishing boats being caught by PMSA since the NDA government took over in 2014. That year, Pakistan caught 64 boats, while in 2015, it fell to 60 boats with 130 fishermen.
Acknowledging Pakistan’s softer approach towards fishermen, Indian agencies have not held a single Pakistani fishing boat for the last two years for violating international waters. However, Pakistan still has 860 Indian boats and 450 fishermen in its custody. In contrast, India has 120 Pakistan boats and 29 crew.
A direct hotline between the Director General of Indian Coast Guard and the chief of PMSA has resulted in a kind of benevolence between the security forces of the two countries over the fishermen community, according to a top official the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard and Indian Navy have shepherded back over 15,000 Indian fishing boats that entered into Pakistani waters since 2007, avoiding any legal action by Pakistani authorities. To maintain peace in international waters, the Indian Navy and Coast Guard have taken action against fishermen who repeatedly cross over into Pakistani waters. At the behest of Navy and Coast Guard, the Gujarat government has cancelled the registration of 900 fishing boats since 2003, which were repeat offenders.
“We have reached an agreement on not to arrest any fishing vessel crossing over into five nautical miles of the international maritime boundary line, which was not the case earlier,” said a coastal security official.
For peace in international waters, a Coast Guard team will visit Karachi on July 13 to attend an international conference on maritime issues, during which they will hold discussions with PMSA on coastal security. This will be the first time an Indian security agency will meet their Pakistani counterparts after the terror attack on Pathankot air force base in early January.