Press Trust of india

Coast Guards of India, Pak hold talks, focus on maritime boundary violations by fishermen

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New Delhi, May 28 :  India today conveyed to Pakistan the need for instituting a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for immediate release and repatriation of fishermen who inadvertently cross the international maritime boundary, an official statement said.

The emphasis on the SOP was given during the talks between the Coast Guards of the two countries, where issues pertaining to boundary violations by fishermen and enhancing cooperation in the area of maritime search and rescue, and combating pollution at sea, were discussed.

“A lot of focus of the meeting was on (violation of maritime boundary by) fishermen,” Coast Guard Director General Rajendra Singh said.

An official statement said, “During the meeting, the Indian side reiterated the need for instituting Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for immediate release and repatriation of the fishermen who cross the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) inadvertently as the issue needs to be approached in humanitarian context.”

Further, expeditious exchange of information about the apprehension of fishing boats and fishermen by both sides was also recognised to ensure safety of the fisherfolks, the statement said.

Several fishermen from both countries are languishing in each other’s jails.

“Focus of the talks was also on cooperation in the area of search and rescue operations and cooperation in the field of (maritime) pollution,” the Coast Guard Director Genera added.

The four-member delegation of the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) is being led by its Director General Rear Admiral Zaka Ur Rehman.

Rehman was accompanied by Director (Operations) of the PMSA, an official each from Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Two members — a defence attache and a political secretary — at the Pakistan High Commission here also participated in the talks.

The high-level meeting was conducted under the provisions of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the two agencies in 2005.

A meeting between the two maritime security agencies was scheduled for October last year, but was called off amid tension between India and Pakistan following the Kulbhushan Jadhav episode.

Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian national and former navy officer, has been sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on the charges of alleged spying. India has denied the charges and approached the International Court of Justice against the sentence.

“This annual meeting is a significant link between the two maritime agencies for addressing issues pertaining to maritime boundary violations by fishermen and enhancing cooperation in the domain of maritime search and rescue and marine environment pollution.

“The two service heads from Indian Coast Guard and Pakistan MSA also have a hotline link between them for regular exchange of information on non-military maritime issues as per the MoU between the two governments,” a statement by the Indian Coast Guard said.

The Pakistani delegation will be in India till May 30.

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