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4 Pakistan mariners drown, 2 rescued by Indian fishermen as boat sinks off Gujarat

LiveMint logoLiveMint 11-04-2017 PTI

Ahmedabad: Captured by Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) personnel who illegally entered Indian waters, Indian fishermen did not dither in saving their tormentors after one of the Pakistani boats capsized off the Gujarat coast in Arabian Sea on Sunday.

In the incident, the captured Indian fishermen who were being taken to Karachi saved two PMSA officers after one of the small fast Pakistani boats collided with an Indian fishing boat and capsized in Indian waters, sources said.

The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) retrieved the bodies of three of the four other Pakistani personnel who drowned in the incident and returned them to PMSA, they said.

Meanwhile, the PMSA released seven boats and around 60 fishermen last night as a reciprocal gesture for saving the lives of Pakistani officers, National Fishworkers Forum secretary Manish Lodhari said.

It was an attempt to capture Indian fishermen that turned into a tragedy for PMSA which entered the Indian waters up to 10 nautical miles, a source familiar with the incident said.

“Around 10 boats were fishing in the area when PMSA rounded them up in the high seas. When they were taking them to Karachi, one of their small fast boats collided with one of the Indian fishing boats and capsized in Indian waters,” the source said.

Two of the Pakistani officers were saved by Indian fishermen who were in captivity of PMSA at that time, the source said.

The two rescued persons went back to the Pakistan side with their other officers and the captured boats, he said. However, four PMSA personnel in the capsized vessel went missing in waters, he said. An Indian fishing boat, identified as “Mehnoor”, too got damaged and suffered a breakdown, he said.

Later, the PMSA released an Indian fisherman and asked him to head to the Indian coast towing away the damaged boat. All the other fishermen were taken away by the Pakistani authorities at that time.

On learning about the incident, Indian Coast Guard (ICG) ship ‘Arinjay’, which was stationed at Okha, rushed to the site. The Coast Guard started its operation in the sea late Sunday night and has so far recovered three bodies from Indian waters while search is still on for the remaining one. They said the Coast Guard handed over the bodies of the Pakistanis to the PMSA on Monday.

Lodhari also claimed that Indian fishermen spotted the three bodies in the sea and then handed them over to Indian Coast Guard.

“Earlier, we received reports that PMSA had captured seven boats and 42 fishermen. However, there were actually 10 boats and 60 fishermen in that area. Since our fishermen saved lives of their officers and recovered the bodies, PMSA decided to release the 60-odd fishermen yesterday,” Lodhari told PTI.

“Out of the 10 boats, two (including a damaged boat and another one towing it) had reached Jakhau yesterday with one fisherman while one is still lying unattended in Pakistani waters. Efforts are on by ICG to take its custody,” he said.

Though it has been almost two days since the incident, there was no official statement from the Indian Coast Guard yet. All the officials of North-West command here remained tight lipped and refused to share any details.

The incident has come to light amid fresh strain in India-Pakistan ties over Pakistan’s provocative move to give death sentence to Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav on charges of spying.

Last month, nearly 231 Indian fishermen were captured by Pakistan authorities and their 40 boats seized from the Indian waters.

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