Dr Manmohan Singh, however, told a delegation of fishermen and their leaders that he expected a reciprocal gesture from Pakistan.
He said this when a 10-member delegation of fishermen of Gujarat’s Saurashtra region, along with leaders of the Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace & Democracy, the National Fishworkers’ Forum and a delegation of MPs from Gujarat, met him at his residence in New Dellhi recently.
Jivan Jungi, a leader of a federation of fishermen’s associations in Gujarat, told Khaleej Times that some 230 Indian fishermen and their 780 boats were in the custody of Pakistan while about 200 Pakistani fishermen and their boats were with India.
Gujarat Congress President Arjun Modhwadia, who was part of the team that met Dr Singh, said that the delegates also met Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid to discuss their demands specific to their departments. They demanded a ‘no-arrest policy’, implementation of the interim recommendations of the India-Pakistan judicial committee on prisoners and an agreement for fishing rights in a joint fishing zone.
They also sought unilateral and unconditional release of all Pakistani fishermen lodged in Indian jails, release of all Pakistani boats under Indian custody, centralised identity cards for all fishermen and a separate Fisheries Ministry.
They demanded that a high-level working group involving representatives from the fishing community should be constituted to monitor and prevent the arrest of fishermen and confiscation of the boats and facilitation of Indian and Pakistani fisher persons’ delegations to go to the other country to survey the condition of their boats in the custody of the other country.