Joint Commission minutes: Only passing reference to fishing crisisView(s):
Poaching by Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan waters – a major issue facing both countries — got just a passing mention in the agreed minutes of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission meeting held last week in Colombo.
The Sunday Times understands that the only reference to the longstanding issue of illegal fishing in more than 50 paragraphs of the agreed minutes is: “The Joint Commission noted the intricacies of the fishermen issue on both sides and the need to put forward innovative solutions.”
There is no mention in the agreed minutes of “poaching”, “illegal fishing”, “bottom-trawling”, “illegal methods of fishing” or “deliberate crossing of the International Maritime Boundary Line”.
The Sunday Times learns that this is due to India insisting to Sri Lanka that there could not be any reference to the poaching issue in the agreed minutes. India has also said that words such as poaching and illegal fishing would not be entertained.
The agreed minutes, it is learnt, were drafted in New Delhi and sent for amendments to Colombo. The reference to fishing, therefore, was written in India with Sri Lanka surrendering to the terminologies.
In stark contrast, the agreed minutes of the 2013 India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission makes specific reference to the IMBL. It stated: “The Joint Commission noted that both sides are committed to decrease incidents pertaining to fishing on the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).”
Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, sources say, did not raise the fishing issue in a serious way with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj. Bottom-trawling by Indian fishermen is affecting thousands of Sri Lankan fishermen in the North while destroying the ecosystem. It was not even suggested to include in the minutes that both countries condemn poaching by fishermen of either side.