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In the last few years, India and Pakistan had devised a strong bilateral mechanism to ensure cooperation and understanding to promote the safety and security of fishermen found straying into each other’s territory.
The Pakistani military has allegedly killed an Indian fisherman on the border near Gujarat. On 17 January, patrollers from the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) rammed an Indian fishing boat and shot at the fishermen killing one of them on the spot: six other fishermen were rescued by the Indian Coast Guard, Wion TV reported. The fishing boat sank about 64 nautical miles southwest of the port of Mitha.
A note verbale was issued to Islamabad on 19 January by India’s External Affairs Ministry taking a strong position against what it described as the “unlawful conduct of the PMSA”, according to Wion TV’s report.
“India condemned in the strongest term such deplorable and unprofessional act by PMSA of firing at a fishing vessel and later ramming and sinking it”, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said in the note verbale.
The note verbale added that “such acts are in contravention of all international laws, conventions and the established humanitarian norms and practices”.
India has also called on Pakistan to “investigate the heinous act and instruct” its forces to “desist from such acts immediately”.
There was no immediate response from Pakistani officials.
The incident has pulled the brakes on the efforts being made by the two countries in amicably resolving issues related to fishermen found straying into each other’s territory.
According to the lists exchanged on 1 January 2019 as per an India-Pakistan Agreement on Consular Access, Pakistan has acknowledged the custody of 483 fishermen and 54 civilian prisoners who are Indian or believed-to-be Indian in their jails.
India had secured the release of 1,749 Indian prisoners, including 1,725 fishermen along with 57 boats from Pakistan’s custody since 2014. This includes 179 Indian prisoners and fishermen who were repatriated from Pakistan in 2018.
The construction of the Kartarpur Corridor is the only visible positive development between India and Pakistan in the recent past. The two South Asian neighbours are going through one of the worst phases of their bilateral relations, owing to accusations and counter-accusations of cross-border terrorism and ceasefire violations.