NEW DELHI: India and Sri Lanka will hold Ministerial level talks on Saturday to sort out the long standing issues pertaining to fishermen as the talks between the fishermen associations of the two countries failed to yield any results.
Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samarweera will be holding talks with Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj here, sources said. The issue was discussed during the visit of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe last month.
The talks on Wednesday took place between a 15-member delegation of fishermen association from Tamil Nadu and 10-member delegation from northern Sri Lanka. The talks held in the Ministry of External Affairs after a gap of one and a half years were inconclusive. The talks were also attended by government officials of both sides.
The bone of contention between the two sides is the Palk bay, the 137 kilometers long and its breadth varies between 64 to 137 kilometers. An International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) separates five Indian (262,562 fishermen) and three Sri Lankan districts (119,000 fishermen). Fishing is the economic mainstay of northern Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan fishermen has been demanding their Indian counterparts to stop bottom-trawling that they content has been damaging the marine ecosystem. Since 2014 Sri Lanka Navy has seized more than 100 fishing trawlers; while they have released the Indian fishermen, they refuse to release the trawlers.
During the inconclusive talks among the fishermen representatives, the Indian fishermen have reportedly asked a three years phase out period for them. The Indian fishermen demanded that they should be allowed fishing for 83 days annually for next three years and then the fishermen will be withdrawn completely. The demand was rejected by the Sri Lankan fishermen who sought “compensation for the losses incurred” owing to the fishing by Tamil Nadu fishermen in “their waters”.