—Rear Admiral Zakaur Rehman heads four-member PMSA delegation
NEW DELHI: A four-member Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) delegation, headed by Rear Admiral Zakaur Rehman, arrived here in New Delhi to hold annual maritime dialogue with India’s Coast Guard Director General Rajender Singh.
The annual maritime dialogue between the two coastal security agencies could not take place last year after India decided to put a hold on the talks due to the diplomatic unease caused by death sentence awarded to Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav who was arrested in Pakistan on charges of terrorism and spying for India’s intelligence agency.
During the four-hour long meeting, also attended by officials from Defence Ministry and External Affairs Ministry as well, Indian side reiterated the need for instituting Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) for immediate release and repatriation of the fishermen who cross the international maritime boundary line inadvertently.
Two members — a defence attache and a political secretary — at the Pakistan High Commission 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.
MARITIME BOUNDARY VIOLATIONS BY FISHERMEN:
“A lot of focus of the meeting was on (violation of maritime boundary by) fishermen,” Indian Coast Guard Director General Rajendra Singh said. “Focus of the talks was also on cooperation in the area of search and rescue operations and cooperation in the field of (maritime) pollution,” he added.
“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.
In 2017, PMSA apprehended around 400 Indian fishermen and seized 65 fishing boats. As the issue needs to be approached in a humanitarian context, “we wanted to release the arrested fishermen directly instead of taking them for police custody. Involvement of police authorities take a long time and require the intervention of Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” an Indian official said.
Moreover, expeditious exchange of the information about the arrest of fishermen by both the sides was also raised in the meeting, according to the Coast Guard official. The Indian officials said that both the sides also agreed to conduct search and rescue communications exercise between the Rescue Coordination Centres to validate the SOPs for efficient conduct of rescue of distressed vessels or crew at sea.
Besides, recognising the need for collaboration for preservation and protection of marine environment, Pakistan and India agreed to explore opportunities for cooperation in the field of oil spill response at sea in line with the MoU signed recently by India with the South Asian Cooperative Environment Programme (SACEP).
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.
On October 3, 2005, the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency and the Indian Coast Guards signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that came into effect on March 16, 2006, which envisaged cooperation between the two maritime security agencies through exchange of information on Exclusive Economic Zone violations, apprehended vessels, marine pollution, natural disasters/calamities, combating smuggling, illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and piracy, and coordination in search and rescue and return sea passage.
It also established a communication link which is operational. Under the provisions of the memorandum, the heads of the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency and the Indian Coast Guards meet periodically. The memorandum was extended for five years in 2016. The Pakistani delegation will be in India till May 30.