Crossing of Intl Maritime Boundary Line by Indian Fishermen Challenges & Way Ahead
 Source : NewsBharati  Date : 08-Jan-2018

A total of 457 Indian prisoners, including 399 fishermen, are languishing in Pakistani jails, according to a list Pakistan government handed over to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad on 01Jan 2018.The Foreign Office said the step of giving the list of prisoners was consistent with the provisions of the Consular Access Agreement between Pakistan and India, signed on May 21, 2008.


Under the agreement, both countries are required to exchange lists of prisoners in each other’s custody twice a year, on January 1 and July 1. Pakistan will release 146 fishermen on January 8.Fishermen from Pakistan and India are frequently detained for illegally fishing in each other’s territorial waters.

In Indian side, from the list of total 78 Pakistani fishermen, 61 are still under trials whereas 17 have completed their sentence.(as on July 2017)

At any point in time, many fishermen are languishing in Pak custody.The Pak ISI tries to brainwash them for abetting & aiding their activities in India.

PMSA Kidnapping Indian Fishermen?

Three Pakistan Marine Security Agency (PMSA) commandos died; two were rescued while one has been reported missing, following an accident that took place about 10 nautical miles on the Indian side of the International Maritime Boundary line (IMBL) off Jhakhau coast in Gujarat on 10 April 2017. Indian Coast Guard(ICG) Ship, Arinjay, which had rushed to the accident spot for the rescue operation, found bodies of the three Pakistani marine commandos who had drowned, and had handed them over to their Pakistan counterparts. Two other Pak marine commandos were rescued.

A fleet of PMSA boats had rushed into Indian waters when seven Indian boats were busy fishing about 70 nautical miles from Jhakhau coast."The PMSA boats rounded up seven Indian fishing boats.While escorting them to Karachi coast, one of the Indian boats broke down resulting in a collision with one of the small fast boats of PMSA. The PMSA boat with six Pak marine commandos capsized.

The PMSA is infamous for sailing into Indian waters and kidnapping Indian fishermen with their boats.On 4 April 2017, PMSA had kidnapped 65 Indian fishermen with their vessels off Gujarat coast.

We must keep adequate surveillance to stop intrusions by the PMSA to kidnap Indian fishermen.

Crossing of IMBL by Indian Fishermen

Often, Indian fishermen lured by a better fish catch transgress into foreign waters. “All the fishermen, with motorised boats today by and large carry the GPS with them. They have a system of knowing whether they are in our waters or in waters outside the international maritime borders. There are three types of vessels, the trawlers which are motorised, the mechanised smaller variety vessels, and traditional fishing boats which sometimes use the outboard motor and sometimes use sails. Satellite provides the information and that information is actually transient information which is available to them depending on the season.

The ICG, Police, the Government of Gujarat must counsel and sensitize the fishermen of the dangers involved in crossing the IMBL and action be taken against the defaulters. The ICG should undertake intensive patrolling to prevent Indian fishermen from crossing the IMBL.

ICG ships are regularly deployed for patrol in areas near IMBL. Indian fishing boats found operating near IMBL are shepherded towards Indian waters by ICG ships on patrol to prevent the IMBL violation. The ICG maintains patrol by ships with integral helicopters along the notional Indo-Pak IMBL to prevent transgressing and inadvertent movement of Indian fishing boats to Pakistani waters.

Hovercrafts and high-speed interceptor boats are utilized for shallow water and close coast patrol. In addition, ICG aircraft also carried out coordinated surveillance with ships in the area to prevent poaching, smuggling, piracy and illegal immigration off Indo-Pak provisional IMBL.

The ICG maintains liaison with Pakistan MSA through a communication link under the Memorandum of Understanding.

The ICG warns the fishermen against not only crossing the IMBL but also not to fish in "no-fishing" zone, failing which their documents would be forfeited.

Legal Empowerment of ICG & Indian Navy

The legal limitations faced by the ICG in performing its mandate with regard to being able to take action to impound vessels, involved in carrying out activities like unauthorised survey, data collection is detrimental to national interest.

There are no laws for regulating Indian deep sea fishing vessels in the Indian EEZ beyond territorial waters. In the absence of necessary Regulations, ICG is not in a position to monitor the activities of Deep Sea fishing vessels. A draft bill regulating fishing by all vessels under Maritime Fisheries (Regulation and Management) Act has also been proposed by the ICG in 2009.

The ICG is not empowered to take penal action against such vessels and the MOD had written to the Ministry of Agriculture to take up the matter with the Government of Gujarat and other coastal State Governments for taking suitable deterrent action to prevent Indian fishermen from crossing the IMBL.

We must immediately empower the ICG & Indian Navy by passing coastal security laws.

Look for variations in Coastal Traffic Pattern

There is a standard pattern of coastal traffic during the day, night and various seasons in a year. Any activity which is at variance with this pattern should be analysed. This will help security forces to detect untoward activity.

Lighting of fishing boats at night is a must as it ensures that no untoward activity is carried out. Boats with lights off are to be suspected. Turning to AIS should also be viewed with suspicion.

As a long-term measure, a separate satellite must be launched for better surveillance of all fishing vessels. Priority should be given to the IMBL with Pakistan, Sri Lanka & Bangla Desh.

Inculcating Patriotism and Commitment to the National Cause in the Coastal Areas

We should create awareness of the duties and responsibilities of citizens, through the introduction of imaginatively conceived modules, in the educational curricula in the schools, colleges and professional training institutions on the coast. The Department of Education in the Ministry of Human Resource Development and the State Governments may be involved in this extremely important endeavour. In this context, a proposal that it should be made obligatory for youth to either undergo national service, National Cadet Corps (NCC) or a stint in the Territorial Army (TA) should be considered. The Ministry of HRD may work out the precise modalities for these proposals for national service and the Ministry of Defence for the NCC and the TA.

The rich potential, of the electronic media, should be exploited by the Government, to make people, even those who are illiterate, aware of their duties and obligations. Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the State Governments will need to be involved in this effort.

This will reduce the tendency to get involved in anti-national activities like smuggling, illegal trade, criminal activities at sea pollution, fishing in banned areas, not landing at laid down landing points etc and improve security environment.

Ethics Committee of Parliament Should Lay down Guidelines

Political parties have a significant role to play, in ensuring that the faith of the people in the system is maintained. The Ethics Committee of Parliament could lay down norms and guidelines, for sensitisation of members and constituents of political parties to the need for maintaining exemplary conduct with regard to comments on national security. A similar code should be devised for the Government servants on the coast.

And those of them who are found guilty of violating their legal or constitutional obligations should be dealt with sternly.

Snatch Operations Based On Actionable Intelligence

According to The Week magazine, in the last decade, there has been close to 400 successful snatch operations conducted by intelligence agencies in Nepal, Bangladesh and other countries. Some famous snatches netted Lashkar militants such as Tariq Mehmood and Abdul Karim Tunda, Sheikh Abdul Khwaja, one of the handlers of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Yasin Bhatkal, founder leader of the proscribed terrorist organization Indian Mujahideen etc.

Are they not possible in the maritime domain, especially, in Sir Creek area, Palk Bay and Sunderbans?This will definitely reduce Pakistani forays in Indian waters.

Smart IMBL Patrolling

Surveillance and patrol in any area depend on the risk assessment and threat perception. Further, these parameters may also vary according to time, season, weather and other prevalent situations. Thus, imposing a fixed number of patrolling hours as the minimum achievable target on the IMBL may not be practical. Patrolling should undertake by balancing the operational compulsions with the state of assets of the ship and aircraft.

The ICG must take into account available intelligence to draw risk matrix of an area and accordingly undertake patrolling and surveillance.Can the ICG & Indian Navy outthink the Pakistani ISI?

Actionable Intelligence is the key

Preventing kidnapping and any other security breach requires actionable intelligence. Intelligence-led smart operations are like heat-seeking missiles – chasing their target till the threat is destroyed.

Police, Naval and ICG leadership should be able to give clear directives to intelligence organization for acquiring actionable intelligence and act upon it. Intelligence collection is a formidable challenge which must be met head on to secure our maritime boundaries.