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Exploring Regional Solution for Fishermen disputes in South Asia

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Authors: Niroshika Sajeevani and Mohit Gupta

[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] F [/yt_dropcap]isherman issue between India and Sri Lanka has been cause of worry for both the countries, it has not only severely impacted bilateral relationship between two close neighbor but also has adversely affected 500000 fisherman community living on both sides of borders.

It has become common to hear news of fisherman of one country entering into territorial water of other, and in consequence getting arrested, there boat getting confiscated. Some time even incidents of shooting on fisherman have been reported from both sides.

If we go into root of this fishermen issue between India and Sri Lanka we can see that problem was born because agreement of 1974 and 1976 between India and Sri Lanka which demarcated maritime borders had not created any corporation mechanism between these two states on fisherman issue. Perusing similar agreement between other countries, it could be noted that there always exist joint mechanism for corporation; for instance in 2013 agreement signed between Japan and Taiwan has created joint fisheries committee. This committee is an institutionalized joint management mechanism created under the principle of equality that aims to maintain order in fishing operations and preserve the bio-resources in the agreement-designated zone as well as areas of mutual concern outside of the designated zone.

Through this article attempt is been made to explore solution for this long lasting problem, having a multi dimensional impact on sovereignty, territorial integrity, security, livelihood, and environment of the region.

Issue pertaining to fisherman is a regional in nature and warrant solution at regional level; there are four key reasons for holding this view. Firstly this issue concerns many countries of South Asia. Fishermen entering into other countries territorial water is not only witnessed between India-Sri Lanka, but it can also be seen between Sri Lanka Maldives, India-Pakistan, India-Bangladesh. Thus this issue is common concerns for many countries of the region, hence available regional mechanism could be triggered to effectively deal with it.

Secondly, this issue is posing challenge to the ecology of this region at large. Fishermen are using trawlers which had severe impact on marine ecosystem . It is because of use of this instrument by fishermen, fish density in Indian side of border with Sri Lanka has severely lowered. Thus unless effective mechanism is not found to address the issue, it will not take much time when all marine resources of the region would get exhausted. In 2006, the UNSG reported that 95% of damage to seamount ecosystems worldwide was due to bottom trawling, Use of this mechanized devices have been banned and regulated in various places.

Thirdly, this issue directly has trade implication across the world. This region owing to richness of its marine resources is one of the leading exporters of marine food across the globe. Thus if effective mechanism for settling this fishermen issue is not designed and regulated and mechanism for ensuring sustainable fishery is not adhered at earliest then not only economy of these countries effected but also trade at large at global level will be adversely impacted.

Fourthly, such issues has been successfully been dealt in past with the corporation of regional organization, for instance, European Union has entered into many fisheries agreement with countries of the region, they have come up with predetermined license fishing arrangement whereby fishermen of any country of the region can fish in the water of other country after adhering to the term of this license permit agreement. Thus similar corporation can be envisaged through regional organization existing in the region.

South Asian Association for Regional Agreement (SAARC) could be used as a forum to address this problem. Even though the SAARC regional arrangement is criticized to be failure due to mutual distrust, geo political factors, and ethnic atrocities the SAARC Charter has potential enough to address the persistent regional issues like illegal fishing across borders. Objective of SAARC Charter of promoting the welfare and quality of life , accelerating economic growth and opportunities for individuals to realize their potential , contributing towards mutual trust and to promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social and technical fields , are directly linked to address issue related to poor fishermen community of the region.

The Council of Ministers is main decision taking body in this organization. As per Article IV (c) of SAARC Charter, council of Ministers can take decision on new areas of cooperation. Accordingly, regulating fishery industry can be identified and decided as new area of the cooperation in the region. Since main reason for engaging in illegal fishing are economic vulnerability, unawareness of fishermen about the maritime boundary, ignorance of the consequences of illegal fishing and harmful ecological effects of using trawlers, hence awareness building programmes could be organized through the Action Committee under SAARC .

Moreover joint patrolling is another mechanism that could be adopted to deal with the issue. Australia and Indonesia currently follows this method to combat against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Thus Action Committee of SAARC could facilitate joint patrolling within the Indian Ocean water while defending the territorial integrity of the respective country.

Beside this, Foreign Fishing License Scheme could also be promoted through SAARC for providing legal permit for the fishermen to enter into another state’s territorial water. Introducing vessel tracking devices in fishing boats to determine the location could be another suggestion that can be promoted through this organization. SAARC can also propose Regional Guidelines on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices (IUU), in 2008, the EU had came up with such Regulations to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU .

Beside SAARC, BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) is another important sector driven cooperative organization through which issue could be addressed. As per Article 6, fishery is one of the areas of economic cooperation listed. Fisheries Expert Group Meeting which was held in Thailand in 2001, the members agreed to adopt “Ecosystem-based Fishery Management in the Bay of Bengal” . Further, BIMSTEC Leaders Retreat Outcome Document of Goa in 2016 also identifies, “cooperation in sustainable development of fisheries in this region” as an important dimension. Thus, BIMSTEC is another potential regional arrangement through which issue could be handled.

Finally it could be said that this fisherman issue has given great opportunity to regional forums like SAARC and BIMSTEC to show that they are potent enough to peacefully resolve issue having adverse impact on unity and mutual trust among the members. These regional organizations therefore must harness this opportunity and should thereby come forward to contribute in developing a long-lasting atmosphere of corporation and association among countries of the region.

(*) Niroshika Sajeevani, practicing Advocate at Supreme Court of Sri-Lanka and Mohit Gupta, practicing Advocate at Allahabad High Court

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South Asia

COVID-19 pandemic and positives/negatives of the Pakistani government’s policy towards it

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The covid-19 erupt from Wuhan in December 2019. The first case in Pakistan was observed on February 26th, 2020.It is considered a global pandemic because of its contagious nature. It has engulfed many lives and economies. Whereas Pakistan, despite its socioeconomic and political problems, has tackled covid-19 efficiently so far. Objectives of these policies were to contain and mitigate the spread of covid-19. Pakistan made effective policies to hamper the unfurling nature of covid-19. It was praised by the director-general of WHO and he mentioned it as a lesson for the rest of the world. The upshots of the policies on its citizens were both positive and negative, but they helped a lot in sailing through covid-19.

Covid-19 has accentuated the inadequacy of the health sector. However, to combat covid-19, RFCC assists hospitals to evolve their capacities to provide treatments. Many hotels and motels were converted into quarantine centers. Number of ventilators, gears, beds, and testing capability has been increased. Pakistan got a loan of $760M to improve its medical handling. These policies seem effective as they are the major line to combat covid-19. Number of staff has also increased. These policies play a crucial role in containing Corona virus but due to lack of awareness, many people didn’t get tested. Overall, it played a positive role.

“Out of 220M population, 25% are living below the poverty line and 30% live in grave poverty,” said the PM Imran khan. Therefore, containing the poverty and retaining the economy is an arduous task. For this purpose, the Ehsas program was launched with a stipend money of Rs.12000 for the vulnerable. Employees wouldbe paid a salary during complete lock-down. The government displayed leniency in paying taxes to accelerate the investment. The banks remained open during the nationwide lock-down. However, an in-depth analysis reveals that Ehsas program didn’t prove effective due to the absence of a proper tracking system. The poor and needy people in rural areas were not affable with the technology, therefore they were unable to enroll in this program.

Moreover, the government’s policy of smart lockdown cannot be ignored. It started in April, targeting the disease hotspots. The purpose of this policy was to provide a breathing space to the most vulnerable section of the society. Because nationwide lock-down was threatening food security. Smart lock-down technology played a crucial role and made Pakistan distinctive around the world.

To dampen the adverse effects of covid-19 on society, section 144 was implemented to avoid public gathering. According to the health ministry “home quarantine, zoning of hospitals, and social distancing should be in the nitty-gritty of the policy.” They imposed a ban on air traffic and started screening at the airports for international travellers these measures proved beneficial to some extent. But unfortunately the government couldn’t ensure the SOPs.

In a nutshell, the aforementioned account enables a worthy conclusion that Pakistan has managed to contain the devastating effect of covid-19, however, the danger is not over yet. The second wave of covid-19 has started globally which can overturn the successful results other way round. Therefore, some stringent action should be taken to make the policy of containment of covid-19 more effective that is only possible if there is a consensus between the federal and provincial governments. The only way to limit the dangers of the virus is to come up with the unified and all inclusive national plans.

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Who pulls the strings of the government of India?

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While talking to a Cornell college professor, Rahul Gandhi lamented (March 2, 2021) that the RSS was making use of its educational institutions to propagate its tunnel vision (NewsMatters, March 6, 2021). `Wherefrom money comes to run hundreds of thousands of schools’, he asked.

The RSS, founded in 1925, is not only distorting history, and polluting syllabi but also compelling the BJP government to appoint its nominees to key posts whether academic or political.

The RSS’s rationale is that it is their government. As such, they have every right  to make appointments to all political and non-political posts and revise syllabus according to their own version of history.

A bird’s-eye view of appointments

Besides president Kovind Nath, a dalit, and Hindu-monk Yogi Adityanath, several parcharaks (apostles) were nominated for appointment as chief ministers, governors and cabinet ministers. The nominees included ML Khattar, chief minister of Haryana, Trivendra Singh Rawat, chief minister of Uttarakhand, Devandar Fadnavis (Maharashtra), and Ram Thakur (Himachal Pradesh).

The veterans appointed as governors included Balramji Das Tandan (Chhattisgarh), Ram Naik (UP), Om Prakash Kohli (Gujarat), Keshri Nath Tripathi (West Bengal), Kalyan Singh (Rajasthan), Vidya Saga Rao (Maharashtra), Vaju Bhai Bhala (Karnataka), Padmanabha  Acharya (Nagaland), Jagdish Mukti (Assam) and Tathaghat Roy (Tripura) (Source: Aryana P. Chatterji, Thomas Blom Hansen, and Christophe Jaffrelot (eds), Majoritarian State).

Dr, Lokesh Chandra was made president of Indian Council for Cultural Relations. Ram Bahadur Roy, former ABVP organizing secretary who was jailed during Indira-Gandhi- imposed emergency was appointed to the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts. Baldev Sharma, former editor of the RSS’s Hindi mouth-piece Panchjanya, was appointed chairman of the national Book Trust. Shakti Sanha, private secretary to prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was rewarded with appointment of Director of Nehru Memorial and Library. The memorial was the hub of Nehru-Gandhi legacy. A small-time actor Gajendra Chauhan was appointed Chairman of the Films and Television Institute of India. Hindu Nationalist Anupam Kher was appointed head of India’s Board of Film Certification.

Realising that educational institutions are key agents for ideological dissemination, the RSS thrust its nominees as vice chancellors and directors in universities and cultural institutions of higher learning.

RSS’s version of history

A distorted version is taught in RSS-run Vidya Bharti schools. Hindu caste system is well delineated in Rig Veda, Manusmriti and Bhagavad Gita. But, the RSS preaches that the Muslim Turks initiated the untouchability. Turks introduced commodes in India. “Hindus who refused to convert to Islam were forced to clean them. And, thus they became untouchable.”

Conscription power

While addressing a large gathering at Muzaffarpur, Bhagwat said, `RSS volunteers were so disciplined that they could be mobilized in a matter of days should the constitution and laws of the country so demand’. Many senior retired armed forces officers including former army chief General VK Singh have joined the RSS.

Inference

Bhagwat’s bonhomie with politicians, media, judiciary, industry, religious leaders and civil society reflects that the RSS would continue to keep the Modi government under its Octopus claw. Also it is keen to extend its influence in political, societal and non- governmental spheres. To deepen its roots, the RSS has initiated  programmes like Family Awakening (parivar prabodhan),Village Development (grama vikas), and Social Harmony (samara satta). 

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Cease-Fire Review: A ray of hope

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Pre-Negotiations are very much crucial to achieve the state of “Negociation Continuelle” (continuous negotiations) the only way due to which conflicting parties go for sustained mode of talks.  On 25th February Director Generals of military operations (DGMO’s) of India and Pakistan contacted with each other to review cease fire agreement, on line of control (LOC), which was held back in 2003.  Both States reaffirmed cease fire agreement and to restart weekly hotline contact at DGMO’s level. The agreement was largely violated by both states for several times and they were accusing each other for violations. But one thing is common that on both sides Kashmiris are suffering, they are raising their children in an environment of fear and severe violence. India and Pakistan are both nuclear capable states of South Asian region and are considered as the custodian of regional peace and stability. And without shadow of a doubt regional peace and security is a collective responsibility of the responsible states. Pakistan and India are the main conflicting parties of South Asian region and Kashmir is the bone of contention between them. Kashmir has been a question of integrity for both States. The Line of control also known as working boundary, divides Indian Kashmir from Pakistani Kashmir. There are several resolutions have been passed by the UN General Assembly to address the Kashmir issue but never implemented. UN wants to solve this issue according to the hopes of Kashmiris. The initiation of bilateral talks in the present outrageous environment is not less than a blessing in disguise and it will be fruitful for all the stakeholders; India, Pakistan and Kashmiris as well. This peaceful move from Pakistan and India is highly appreciated globally because Kashmiri diaspora is present worldwide and they are very much concerned with future of their homeland.

Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi, with his hostile ideology of “Akhand Bharat” assumed office in 2014. His political adventurism based on jingoistic-cum-hawkish policies dragged India State to the verge of staunch illiberalism where identity crisis burst up, which is more lethal than previously existing class crisis. Every community including lower class Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs etc. all are vulnerable to the identity crisis.  On 30th May 2019, he sworn for his second tenure as prime minister of the world’s so called largest democracy. He came with another adventurous mandate and the first demonstration took place when he suspended special status of Kashmir and abrogated articles 370 and 35A. His ideology is regarded as Nazi-inspired ideology because in contemporary scenario only RSS community and other proponents of Hindutva are only considered as “Real Hindustani”. All minorities are suffering in India because their basic living rights are kept aside. The ongoing farmer’s protests shook the foundations of the state, hundreds of thousands of farmers rushed to the Delhi against the anti-famer laws passed by Indian Parliament.

In India Separatist movements are getting pace; minorities are unsatisfied with governing approach of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). Prime Minister Narendra Modi, reuined the secular and democratic face of India. On the other hand, Foreign policy of India is facing severe challenges because PM Narendra Modi’s approach is hostile based on hatred and prejudice. These attributes are fatal for State’s reputation at foreign lands; the recent India-China standoff was just a teaser of BJP’s whole story related to foreign relations. In addition to this, Economic goal of 2025 of India is again became a distant dream just because of belligerent policies of ruling regime.

In contemporary scenario if we look towards India, only Modi-Media nexus will be seen. But in reality the situation is getting worse day by day. The review of cease fire agreement, offered by India, is a positive step towards the regional peace. It is appreciated by both civil and military administrations of both states. When PM Imran Khan assumed office he offered dialogue to his Indian counter-part but Indian Premier refused to go for any sort of talks. India always took a position that to initiate talks first of all, Pakistan has to stop the cross-border terrorism. Both terrorism and talks can never go side by side, this Indian claim is not based on empirical evidences because Pakistan has been facing menace of terrorism  since 2001 and leaving no stone unturned to root out terrorism and safe havens for terrorists.

Currently, India is facing deep internal and external challenges. It is in the interest of India to have peace talks with Pakistan. On the other hand, it is a ripe moment for Pakistan to act decisively because it is the only time when India can review its decision of 5th August 2019.Moreover, it is a ray of hope to establish peace in entire region. This is the time when bi-lateral diplomacy can turn the traditional regional political dynamics. Both states are facing same problems when it comes to poverty, climate change, social security and the list goes on. The realm of these talks should expand and concern parties have to include economic and political regimes in front of each other otherwise momentum of talks will be lost. Regional connectivity is important to have eternal peace, Pakistan and India should review SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) that would provide basis for economic, cultural as well as political connectivity. Major Powers should also play their important role because world cannot afford rivalry between two nuclear states. Now, America is under a democrat President, and they should check every internal and external move of their Strategic and defense ally in Asia-Pacific region. Negotiations between India and Pakistan are in the interest of all other regional and extra-regional actors. Both states should adopt flexible approach while discussing the core issues and should avoid blame game. It will enhance the chances of continuous negotiation which is a pre-requisite for peace and progress.

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