Asked why the Union Government should not give an assurance to fishermen of the Northern Province that it would ensure that Indian fishermen honour any agreement on the time frame for withdrawal of bottom trawling, Radhakrishnan, who participated in the talks held on Saturday at the level of Ministers of India and Sri Lanka, told The Hindu on Tuesday that “if they (the fishermen of Sri Lanka) come for a settlement and convey their position to us through their government, we are ready.” He added that “negotiations cannot be held merely on the basis of suspicion. Then, there won’t be any result.”
On the period of transition from bottom trawling to any other sustainable fishing practice, the Union Minister said India had initially asked for three years. Finally, it came down to one year. “But, the fishermen of Sri Lanka are unrelenting. One of their leaders said ‘we won’t allow bottom trawling even for a second.’”
When it was pointed out that leaders of the Indian fishermen had expressed disappointment over the absence of any announcement on the release of impounded boats, he replied that the Sri Lankan government had said that it was not against the release but the fishermen of the Northern Province did not favour the move.
He explained that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had attended Saturday’s discussion despite being treated at the hospital.
On the status of the Tamil Nadu government’s package proposal for diversification, he said the issue was not the release of funds but the manner in which the funds would be spent. Details would have to be worked out through detailed discussions between the Centre and the State government. (Colombo Gazette)