Moments after news had emerged of the capture of 12 Indian fishermen by the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency near the International Maritime Boundary on Sunday, members of the national media began to speculate whether it was an act of revenge, following the interception of a ‘suspicious’ Pakistani fishing boat, which sank in the early hours of January 1.
Although the Pakistani government is yet to inform its Indian counterparts on the veracity of such claims, New Delhi will yet again have to deal with the possibility that its own citizens are not safe at sea. It is pertinent to note that the long-standing territorial disputes between India and Pakistan have led to strict patrolling of territorial waters in the Arabian Sea and the coastline shared along the Indian state of Gujarat and the Pakistani province of Sind by the Maritime Security Agency of Pakistan and the Indian Coast Guard. To exacerbate the situation, there is a definite absence of a physical boundary, which leaves fishermen from both sides susceptible to illegally crossing territorial waters. A similar situation arises for Indian fisherman off the coast of Tamil Nadu, where Sri Lankan authorities are on hand to apprehend them.
Considering the economic condition of these poor local fishermen, many do not possess the requisite navigational tools. Hence, these fishermen or trawlers are incapable of determining their location. To tackle the issue, the Indian government has undertaken a census of fishermen in western Gujarat and preparing a database of their boats to effectively monitor them. To consolidate matters further, the Indian Coast Guard has also begun installing tracking devices, developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation, in fishing boats operating in the waters off western Gujarat. These tracking devices possess the ability to send out alerts in case of an emergency. The government, however could a lot worse than speeding up the process of effectively monitoring them.