[Editorial Analysis] Caught in the crossfire

Mains Paper 2: International Relations
Prelims level: Pakistan Maritime Security Agency
Mains level: India and its neighbourhood relations


• Recently, an Indian fisherman was killed in firing by the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) off the Gujarat coast on November 7.

About the killing:

• It is the first such killing by the PMSA in the last six years though conflicts over fishing rights are not infrequent along the International Maritime Boundary Line between the two countries.

• Six other fishermen have reportedly been detained, while one injured person managed to return to Indian shores.

• Indian response: India has termed Pakistan’s action deplorable and “in contravention to all established international practices and bilateral understandings”.

The overall situation: Data

• According to the Gujarat government, a total of 345 fishermen from the State were lodged in Pakistan jails as on December 2020.

• According to the National Fishworkers Forum, there are 558 Indian fishermen in Pakistani jails, and 74 from Pakistan in Indian prisons. The Forum calculates those 1,200 Indian fishing vessels are in Pakistan’s custody.

Similar incidents:

• In April 2020, Pakistani forces opened fire on two boats off the Gujarat coast injuring one person, and

• in 2019 they sunk an Indian boat in which six of seven fishermen onboard were rescued. One person went missing.

• Fishermen often get caught in the fluctuating fate of the bilateral relations between the two countries, which is currently at a low.

• The problem of terrorism: Over this, Pakistan has aggressively sponsored violence in India, and terrorists trained by its agencies sailed in a hijacked Indian fishing boat in 2008 to Mumbai.

Steps taken to resolve the issue:

• Joint judicial committee: In 2007, both countries formed a joint judicial committee comprising eight retired judges — four each from India and Pakistan — to facilitate the exchange of civilian prisoners.

• The mechanism has been defuncted since 2013, and attempts to revive it in 2018 did not bear fruit.

Problem with other countries: Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Bangladesh:

• Sri Lanka: Even fishermen venturing near the India¬ Sri Lanka maritime border often fall victim though both countries maintain cordial bilateral ties. Many fishermen from Tamil Nadu who cross the maritime boundary to catch fish, get arrested in Sri Lanka and their boats ceased or destroyed. Sri Lanka has reacted violently and their navy has fired upon these fishermen and killed on the spot.

• Myanmar and Bangladesh: Many Indian villages along the borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh also become theatres of conflict, as communities often find it difficult to reconcile with international borders that divide their traditional spheres of economic and social activities.

Way forward:

• It is a tragedy that ordinary people could end up in a foreign prison while trying to earn their livelihood.

• India and Pakistan must consider this as a humanitarian crisis and work towards resolving it. And, both countries must avoid any escalation in tensions on account of the latest incident.


Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the United States and the European Union dispute over steel and aluminium tariffs, consider the following statements:

1. The United States will not apply Section 232 duties imposed by former president Donald Trump and will allow duty-free importation of steel and aluminium from the EU at a historical-based volume.

2. The EU will suspend tariffs on US products like whiskey, powerboats and Harley-Davidson motorcycles, imposed in retaliation for the steel and aluminium tariffs.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: C

Mains Questions:

Q.1) Enumerate the reasons and the consequence of frequent arrests of Indian fishermen.

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