India to stop fishermen from straying into Pakistan

AHMEDABAD, India Mon Apr 7, 2008 4:37pm IST

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AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) - Indian coast guards are carrying out a census of fishermen in the western part of the country, to help prevent them from straying into neighbouring Pakistan, a top commander said on Monday.

Indian fishermen frequently stray into Pakistani territory and end up spending years in their jails, Rajendra Kumar, the Coast Guard Commander said.

Gujarat shares a vast coastal border with Pakistan and officials say fishermen on both sides ignore rules in search of fish.

"We are preparing a database of fishermen and their boats to keep an eye on their fishing exercise and ensure they do not enter Pakistan waters," Singh said in Ahmedabad on Monday.

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have fought three wars since the partition of British-ruled India in 1947, but relations have improved since they began a peace process in 2004.

Despite better relations, the neighbours remain deeply suspicious of each other and frequently arrest each others' citizens.

In 2006, Pakistan authorities released over 400 Indian fishermen, including 30 children caught fishing illegally in their territorial waters.

India responded by releasing 130 Pakistani fishermen, but says 350 more could be in Pakistani prisons.

Indian officials say more than 100 boats every month cross the international maritime boundary between India and Pakistan and they often have no clue as to how many fishermen had strayed.

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