The ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in Tamil Nadu on Saturday expressed hope that the ministerial level talks between India and Sri Lanka to be held later in the day will bring in positive results for the long standing issues pertaining to fishermen after talks between fishermen associations of the two countries failed to yield any results.
AIADMK leader C. R. Saraswathi told ANI, “We are hopeful that today’s meeting will bring in good results. Our Minister Jayakumar has also said very clearly that we have given a requisition that both the countries should walk together in this and we have also requested the Ceylon (Sri Lankan) Government to return the boats of our fishermen that have been its siege for a long time.”
“Our Chief Minister is taking a lot of care of fishermen in Tamil Nadu. Already we have held a meeting in Delhi, lot of meeting have been held and our CM has also written many letters to the President saying that fishermen’s problem should be solved for once and for all and not only for us but also the fishermen of Ceylon,” she added.
Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samarweera is expected to hold talks with Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj today in New Delhi.
Earlier, the talks on Wednesday took place between a 15-member delegation of fishermen association from Tamil Nadu and 10-member delegation from northern Sri Lanka. The bone of contention between the two sides is the Palk bay, the 137 kilometers long and its breadth varies between 64 to 137 kilometers. An International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) separates five Indian (262,562 fishermen) and three Sri Lankan districts (119,000 fishermen).
Fishing is the economic mainstay of northern Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan fishermen has been demanding their Indian counterparts to stop bottom-trawling that they content has been damaging the marine ecosystem. Since 2014 Sri Lanka Navy has seized more than 100 fishing trawlers; while they have released the Indian fishermen, they refuse to release the trawlers.
During the inconclusive talks among the fishermen representatives, the Indian fishermen have reportedly asked a three years phase out period for them. The Indian fishermen demanded that they should be allowed fishing for 83 days annually for next three years and then the fishermen will be withdrawn completely. The demand was rejected by the Sri Lankan fishermen who sought “compensation for the losses incurred” owing to the fishing by Tamil Nadu fishermen in “their waters”.