India and Sri Lanka look to break deadlock on fishing issue

Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj‏ last week had talks on the contentious fishing issue.

Foreign Ministry sources said that Swaraj‏ had assured the Minister that funds are being allocated to assist Indian fishermen in deep sea fishing so they can avoid Sri Lankan waters.

Several rounds of talks between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen have so far failed to result in a final solution to the issue.

Swaraj last month held a meeting in New Delhi to discuss the issues on the frequent arrest of Indian fishermen by the Sri Lanka Navy and also alleged confiscation of the boats.

Just last Friday a public interest litigation (PIL) petition was filed in the Madras High Court seeking that the issue of alleged attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen by Sri Lankan Navy be referred to International Court of Justice (ICJ).

When the PIL by an NGO came up, the first bench comprising Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M. Sunder directed Assistant Solicitor General Su Sreenivasan and state government pleader M. K. Subramanian to get instructions on the plea, the Press Trust of India reported.

The petitioner, ‘Fisherman Care’, represented by Peter Royan, prayed for a direction from the court to refer the matter of ‘human rights violation committed by Sri Lankan Navy with impunity for the past 34 years against fishermen of India’ to ICJ for taking action.

He also alleged that the Sri Lankan Navy had all these years violated the 1974 agreement entered into between India and Sri Lanka.

On his part, the Assistant Solicitor General submitted that in the past three years, one fisherman from India had lost his life, that too because of crossing the territorial jurisdiction.

Due to effective steps taken by the Union government and continuous negotiations held at the diplomatic level, damage is under control now, he submitted. (Colombo Gazette)