Avoidable fishermen issues between India and Sri Lanka

It is true that the Sri Lankan government has to protect the interests of its fisher men just as India has to protect the interests of Indian fisher men.
by N.S.Venkataraman

(July 02 , Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) In recent times, we frequently hear about the fishermen from Tuticorin / Rameswaram region in Tamil Nadu who go for fishing, being arrested by Sri Lankan coast guards. The latest incident, when 23 fishermen from Tamil Nadu were taken into custody by the SriLankan government and then released after some time caused considerable concern in Tamil Nadu. Certainly, such incidents and the consequent strain in relationships are avoidable if only the Government of Sri Lanka and the Government of India would exhibit qualities of statesmanship and wisdom in the mutual relationships.

As two neighbouring regions, India and Sri Lanka have much to gain by cooperating with each other and maintaining cordial relationships and they have nothing to gain by acrimonious relationships.

Fishermen whether in Tamil Nadu or Sri Lanka, largely belong to lower income group and have to do hard work in difficult terrain conditions to sustain their income and livelihood. When such fisher men , living on hand to mouth existence, are arrested on the sea waters by the Sri Lankan government , it certainly causes justifiable anger and frustration in Tamil Nadu. This should particularly be kept in view that while fishing in the sea, it would be very difficult for the fisher men to know in precise terms as to which would be Indian waters and which would be the Sri Lankan waters and certainly there would be possibilities of genuine errors. It would be particularly harsh for either of the government to arrest the fisher men who may cross the waters unknowingly.

Both the governments should realize about the harm done to the relationships between both the countries by exaggerating such trivial issues and arresting the poor and innocent fisher men and this would do no good for both the countries. There are many things that can be gained by Sri Lanka by co operating with India rather than resorting to such harsh steps.

It is true that the Sri Lankan government has to protect the interests of its fisher men just as India has to protect the interests of Indian fisher men. But, why not approach the issues with an element of good will , understanding and compassion towards the poor fisher men of both the countries instead of blowing the issues out of proportions and causing counter productive bad relationships ?

Given the present conditions, it would be appropriate for India and Sri Lanka to immediately constitute a committee of good will that would have representatives both from India and Sri Lanka including fisher men and credible persons with impeccable track record and good will. In the event of such issues concerning the fisher men arising , this committee should immediately spring into action , look into the issues and provide a fair minded solution. Such standing committee would go a long way in avoiding harassment of fisher men in both the countries who are only making a living by fishing in the sea waters and which is the only profession that they know.

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