Giving dignity, equality to Sri Lankan Tamils!

  • A. Denis N. Fernando makes a case for the demarcation of the International Maritime Zone between India and Sri Lanka, in the Palk Strait, to protect the rights of Sri Lanka’s Tamil community

Sri Lanka is an island between the Erythrean Sea (Arabian Sea) and the Bay of Bengal. It was the main Trade Sea Route from the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf in West Asia to Sri Lanka and beyond to the Indonesian Archipelago, Indochina and China in East Asia.

As Sri Lanka was the hub of this spice trade route, today, this route is the most important trade route that spans this ocean from the extreme west of Asia to the extreme east of Asia, which is today known as the Indian ocean. However, in view of the enactment of the U.N. Law of the Sea, we have today, over 40 countries which have Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) within this Ocean. India, today, has its EEZ namely, its own Indian Sea.

The white specks denote Indian fishing boats encroaching in Lankan waters

Therefore, it is anomalous to call the ocean between the four continents of Asia, Antarctica, Africa and Australia as the Indian Ocean, as today, over 40 nations have claims to it, as they have their own EEZ. Therefore, it is clear that, it has to be called by a different name, and the most appropriate name to do so would be the Asiatic ocean.

The (above) Google earth map clearly indicates the thousands of fishing trawlers in the Ramesvaram coastline in Tamil Nadu, close to Sri Lanka. These fishermen cross the International Maritime Boundary and illegally fish in our territorial waters, which has to be stopped.

These Indian fishermen are violating the human rights of Sri Lankan fisherman by depriving them of their livelihood. It is clear that the International Maritime Zone between India and Sri Lanka, in the Palk Strait, has to be demarcated and established.

This could be done by having anchored floating bouys with rotating mirrors, so that it is visible to all, and anyone crossing it could be prosecuted and their trawlers with their catch confiscated. There is no other option to prevent this violation of international law which should be adhered to by all.

The writer is Fellow of National Academy of Sciences (NASSL)

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