Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s goodwill gesture of returning 57 boats of Indian fishermen at PM Narendra Modi’s request has raised hopes that Colombo too may soon be persuaded.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka have always refused to return boats of fishermen arrested for crossing over to their side, with Pakistan arguing that losing boats was a deterrent for the Gujarati fishermen lured by hopes of a bigger catch on the Pakistani side.
Nawaz Sharif’s directive to release the boats in May this year before he flew down to New Delhi to attend Modi’s swearing-in ceremony was a clear departure from this stand.
Islamabad was aware that the gesture would touch a chord with the Indian establishment, particularly since Modi — as Gujarat chief minister — had made this demand on several occasions.
But officials point that returning the boats –— many of them damaged — was a logistical nightmare. An Indian team will travel to Pakistan in August to inspect the boats and oversee repairs to make them sea-worthy. Discussions on the handover began last week when an Indian delegation visited Karachi to discuss the modalities with Pakistan maritime security agency officials.
The government does not intend to stop with Islamabad and hopes the Modi initiative would touch the lives of Tamil fishermen too.