India, Pakistan to take a step forward with talks on coastal security

imgAs India and Pakistan look to break the logjam in ties, the two countries will hold a dialogue between the Indian Coast Guard and Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) this month.

Official sources said a Coast Guard team will visit Pakistan from July 12 to July 14 to attend an international conference on maritime issues in Karachi and also engage PMSA on issues related to coastal security. This will be the first time that an Indian agency will visit Pakistan since the Pathankot airbase attack in January this year.

The comprehensive bilateral dialogue (CBD) between India and Pakistan, as announced by foreign minister Sushma Swaraj in December 2015, has failed to take off in the absence of, as India continues to maintain, any significant action by Islamabad against Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists who perpetrated the Pathankot attack. Pakistan continues to insist on initiating CBD with a visit to Islamabad by Indian foreign secretary S Jaishankar, as decided in December last year.

India though has not relented with Swaraj reiterating last month that talks with Pakistan and terror can’t go together, even as she insisted that dialogue with the neighbouring country had not been called off. The two countries will now hope that maritime dialogue between the Coast Guard and PMSA will lead to more substantive engagement in the near future, leading up to a likely visit to Islamabad by not just Jaishankar but also PM Narendra Modi in November this year for the Saarc summit.

The Indian Coast Guard and PMSA signed an MoU in 2005, which envisaged cooperation between the two agencies through exchange of information on “Exclusive Economic Zone violations, apprehended vessels, marine pollution, natural disasters/calamities, combating smuggling, illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and piracy, and coordination in search and rescue and return sea passage”. It also established a communication link between them in the form of a hotline which remains operational.