Press Colombo Not to Escalate Fishing Issue
By The New Indian Express | Published: 01st January 2014 02:46 AM |
The arrest of 40 Tamil fishermen from Puthukottai and Ramanathapuram districts of Tamil Nadu by the Sri Lankan navy on December 28 and 29 for straying out of our territorial waters is a grave provocation and must be condemned strongly. The Indian government must make it clear to Colombo that such high-handedness is totally unacceptable. At a time when the government of India is trying to arrange a meeting of Tamil and Sri Lankan fishermen in Chennai and the Jayalalithaa government has adopted a conciliatory approach towards resolving the issue, such incidents can only worsen the situation and frustrate attempts to reconcile.
Jayalalithaa cannot be faulted for her strong letter to prime minister Manmohan Singh blaming the Centre for failing to act against attacks by Sri Lanka. Her representations to him to intercede with the Lankan government to resolve the contentious issue have fallen on deaf ears. In her latest missive she has told the prime minister that the “meek and weak response from the Government of India to the repeated instances of abduction and attacks on our fishermen in their traditional waters has emboldened the Sri Lankan Navy to act brutally against our innocent fishermen” and that this would not do.
Sri Lankan and Indian fishermen are embroiled in an enduring dispute over the use of fishing grounds in the Palk Bay. It would be naive to perceive this livelihood conflict in isolation of its polarising political context. This imbalance of political agency is grounded in the enduring ethnic tension between the Tamils and the Sri Lankan government. If there is to be a durable resolution of the fishermen’s issue, both the governments and other stakeholders would have to show a greater spirit of accommodation. Both sides should work towards de-escalation. The proposed talks between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen’s representatives would be a step in the right direction. New Delhi must convince Colombo that nothing should be done to mar the congenial atmosphere during the run-up to the talks.