Sri Lanka yesterday rejected Indian proposals to allow fishermen from both countries to share fishing resources in each other’s seas. “There will be no compromise in allowing Indian fishermen to fish in Sri Lankan waters,” Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne said.
His tough stand came ahead of next week’s Indo-Lanka talks in Colombo on the fisheries issue.
Earlier, India’s then External Affairs Ministry Secretary Nirupama Rao, now India’s ambassador in Washington, had proposed an arrangement where both Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen could fish in each other’s waters. Dr. Senaratne said Sri Lanka would insist that Indian fishermen should not enter the country’s territorial waters while Sri Lanka would ensure its fishermen did not stray into Indian waters.
Fishing in the Palk Strait, the waters that divide India and Sri Lanka, has become a contentious issue. Dividing the sea is only an International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL), which the navies of both countries seek to maintain. However, fishermen from the two countries are known to end up in each other’s waters, sometime getting arrested and detained to face legal action.
Officials from the India Defence and Fisheries Ministries are due for the talks which begin in Colombo on Friday. Sri Lanka will be represented by External Affairs Ministry Secretary Karunatillake Amunugama and Fisheries Ministry Additional Secretary Shantha Bandara. Meanwhile 76 more Sri Lanka fishermen who were arrested for entering Indian territorial waters remain in custody.
However moves were underway to release 35 Sri Lankan fishermen before the joint working group meeting. A group 10 Sri Lankan fishermen who were released from custody was due to arrive in Kankesanthurai last afternoon.