The Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi recently announced that India has repatriated 22 Pakistani nationals through the Attari-Wagah border. This news comes following concerted efforts by the High Commission and the cooperation of the Indian side.
The Repatriation Efforts
These repatriations were made possible by the combined efforts of the Pakistan High Commission in India and the Pakistan Foreign Office. Their primary focus remains on facilitating the early repatriation of Pakistani prisoners who have completed their sentences in India.
A Reciprocal Gesture
On May 13, prior to this development, Pakistan had released 198 Indian fishermen, who were charged with violation of the Passport Act for crossing the maritime international border. This repatriation took place at the Attari-Wagah border.
The Underlying Issue: Sir Creek Dispute
The frequent arrest of fishermen from both countries stems from a long-standing dispute over Sir Creek, an estuary at the Indo-Pak border. The disagreement lies in how the estuary should be divided. India advocates for the Thalweg doctrine, which calls for an equal division of the water body. However, Pakistan disagrees with this proposition.
This dispute impacts the central international maritime border between the Rann of Kutch in India and Sindh in Pakistan, affecting the exclusive economic zones of both countries. When the fishermen inadvertently cross these ambiguous maritime borders, they are arrested and their boats are seized.
A Call for Solutions
Fishermen from both sides have demanded the return of their seized boats and suggest equipping the fishermen with communication and navigation kits to ensure they are aware of the border lines.
To minimize such occurrences in the future, it is suggested that both countries should take steps to spread awareness, train the fishermen, and provide them with communication and navigation kits on a large scale to prevent inadvertent border crossing. This constructive approach could prove to be a practical solution to this complex, ongoing issue.