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India-Sri Lanka Fishing Conflict: 22 Tamil Nadu Fishermen Arrested

The Sri Lankan Navy arrested 22 fishermen from Nagapattinam and neighboring Karaikal on Wednesday in the most latest development.

Shivani Meena
Tamil Nadu Fishermen
Tamil Nadu Fishermen

Tamil Nadu fishermen are being detained for "poaching" in Sri Lankan territorial waters with increasing regularity. However, the involved parties have yet to show the urgency necessary for well-known solutions.

The Sri Lankan Navy arrested 22 fishermen from Nagapattinam and neighboring Karaikal on Wednesday in the most latest development. 

According to a letter sent a few days ago by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin to External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, there are already 29 fishermen in Sri Lanka who are in custody. According to estimates, Sri Lankan officials have also impounded 84 vessels. The regularity with which Tamil Nadu's fishermen allegedly break the International Maritime Boundary Line, while being aware of the repercussions, demonstrates their desperation prompted by livelihood concerns. 

This does not, however, free them of responsibility for destroying Sri Lanka's marine biodiversity, which is important to Tamil fishermen in the Northern Province who have suffered as a result of the civil conflict.

The perplexing problem has been exacerbated by recent events, including the reported death of two Jaffna fishermen on January 27 and 29, successive demonstrations by northern Sri Lankan fishermen, and the disclosed auctioning by Sri Lanka of 140 impounded boats even before a Tamil Nadu government team and fishermen's representatives could visit Sri Lanka to complete modalities on the disposal of unsalvageable boats. 

There has been no news from Colombo about allowing fishermen-devotees to attend the yearly celebration of St. Anthony's Church in Katchatheevu in March. 

Aside from releasing the arrested fishermen, the governments of the two nations should set a date for an early meeting of the Joint Working Group, which was last convened in December 2020. They should also make it easier to resume conversations at the level of fisherfolk, particularly in Tamil Nadu and the Northern Province. Sri Lanka should take initiative, as its inhabitants in the north bear the brunt of the alleged transgressions. Furthermore, its positive measures would be consistent with the Prime Ministers of India and Sri Lanka's agreement at the virtual summit in September 2020 to "maintain engagement to address concerns pertaining to fishermen through regular consultation and bilateral channels." 

To elicit a greater response from fishermen in the Palk Bay areas of Tamil Nadu, New Delhi may consider offering extra incentives and exemptions. As a gesture of goodwill, it may also suggest help for the fisherman in the Northern Province. There is no shortage of ideas in the Palk Bay fisheries conflict, but significant action on the part of stakeholders has been found missing. 

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