NEW DELHI: Pakistan Rangers and India’s Border Security Force (BSF), apparently weary of recent ceasefire violations and other costly transgressions, agreed on Friday to work for peace and tranquillity, and to return to the 2003 ceasefire agreement between the two countries.
However, their resolve to help ease the plight of Pakistani fishermen, caught ever so frequently by Indian patrols controversially, was challenged by reports that the BSF had detained Pakistani trawlers and fishermen off the Gujarat coast on Friday.
The Pakistani version of the talks sounded welcoming and friendly whereas the Indian press release was remonstrative, even if this might not have been the intention of the interlocutors.
The biannual talks concluded here on Friday. The 23-member Indian delegation was led by BSF Director General K.K. Sharma. Maj Gen Muhammad Saeed, Director General of Pakistan Rangers (Sindh), led a 19-member delegation. Both sides also had representatives from respective interior and foreign ministries along with officers from narcotics control and survey departments.
“The Indian side firmly and strongly took up specific issues of concern including incidents of unprovoked cross-border firing, smuggling of narcotics, infiltration attempts, tunnelling and defence construction activities,” the Indian home ministry said.
“The issue of inadvertent crossing over by the border population and ways to facilitate their return on both the sides was also discussed. It was agreed upon in deliberations that utmost caution and care should be exercised in dealing with the civilians,” the Indian summary said.
It spoke of the need for timely exchange of information, at the field level with increased frequency of field commanders-level meetings and simultaneous coordinated patrolling among other measures.
“The need for cooperation to maintain the sanctity of the borders was emphasised upon. The talks were held in a constructive atmosphere (and) concluded with both sides agreeing on constant endeavor to maintain peaceful and tranquil borders.”
An Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement, issued in Rawalpindi, said that the 44th meeting was held “in highly congenial and conducive atmosphere”.
It said: “There has been a sincere endeavor from both the forces to encourage the local commanders at junior level to mutually resolve the minor issues, related to border management at post, company and
battalion level. Measures were also discussed to effectively check the smuggling and border crossings from both sides.”
The Pakistani statement spoke of ceasefire violations and unprovoked firing causing loss of innocent lives. “At many occasions, women and children also become the victims. To overcome this ordeal, both border guarding forces need to revive the spirit of 2003 ceasefire agreement.”
It was the Pakistani statement that underscored the plight of the fishermen.
“In order to address the miseries of inadvertent border crossers and fishermen detained in Indian jails due to lengthy and complicated repatriation process, both sides explored fresh ideas to expedite the legal formalities with an intent to reunite the affected families with their loved-ones.”
Pakistan also raised “issues of defence construction closer to Working Boundary and International Border”.
They were deliberated upon to find “amicable and prompt solutions for addressing the day-to-day mutual concerns”.
The Pakistani delegation was positive about the outcome. “The outcome of this meeting will be beneficial to both the countries in general and border guarding forces in particular.”
It was mutually agreed to hold the next round of talks in Pakistan.
According to Press Trust of India, the BSF apprehended three Pakistani fishermen and seized five boats from the Harami Nala Creek area along the India-Pakistan border in Gujarat’s Kutch district.
“A patrol party of the BSF’s 79th battalion, deployed to guard the India-Pakistan border, apprehended the three fishermen on Friday,” PTI said. It quoted a senior official as saying that the fishermen were picked up from the “vertical area of the Harami Nala Creek”.
The men have been be handed over to police, the official said.
Published in Dawn, November 11th, 2017