Sri Lankan Navy apprehends 9 Indian fishermen

Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 10

A large number of fishermen from Tamil Nadu will keep off the sea on Monday in an apparent reflection of the inability of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to resolve their issues with the Sri Lankan leadership during his Colombo visit earlier this week.

In fact with the latest arrests by Sri Lankan Navy on Sunday, the number of Indian fishermen in custody has crossed 50 as against 36 when Jaishankar had left for Colombo amid hopes that he would secure their release.

A meeting of the India-Sri Lanka joint working group on fisheries had met in the run up to Jaishankar’s Colombo visit but it has apparently failed to resolve the issue.

Fishermen from Tamil Nadu who plan to go on strike say the Sri Lankan Navy has also been seizing mechanised boats and damaging fishing nets as well besides it allowing them to be in the vicinity of Katchatheevu Island.

The Katchatheevu Island along with the fishermens’ harassment has become a testing stone of India-Sri Lankan bilateral ties under the Modi government. The Sri Lankan media has been expressing apprehension that New Delhi might take back Katchatheevu Island which was ceded by India to Sri Lanka but this was not ratified by Indian Parliament.

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, in his opening remarks after meeting Jaishankar, had spoken of both sides making efforts to curb illegal activities. Analysts this was a subtle reference to Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu swarming Palk Straits with mechanised trawlers that cause permanent damage by dredging up the sea floor. But their aggressive forays also cause political damage as apprehensions in Sri Lanka rises that India has an eye on the Katchatheevu Island.

India has posted diplomat Gopal Bagle, straight from a stint in the Prime Minister’s Office, as its High Commissioner in Sri Lanka to turn around ties. (EOM)

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