By Kelum Bandara
India has proposed that Sri Lanka’s exclusive economic zone be shared as a measure to resolve the Indo-Lanka fishing crisis, which has now turned out to be a diplomatic issue, Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne said yesterday.
The Minister told Daily Mirror it would be one of the subjects discussed when India’s Agriculture Minister -Sharad Pawar, who is in charge of the fisheries sector, visits Sri Lanka soon.
Mr. Pawar was expected to participate at last week’s National Aquaculture Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) but had to cancel his visit because of a sudden meeting called by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with regard to the cabinet reshuffle. The cancellation led to the postponement of an agreement between the two countries for cooperation on the agriculture sector.
“I know Mr. Pawar personally. I have spoken to him on several issues in the past. When, Minister S.B. Dissanayake was stripped of his civics rights, I briefed the Indian political leadership at the time. I met Mr. Pawar on one such occasion. I am looking forward to seeing him again,” he said.
Fishermen crossing the maritime border have become a serious issue with several fishermen by arrested by the coast guard of both countries.
More than 70 Sri Lankan fishermen are still in the custody of Indian coastal guard though the Indian fishermen who were arrested by the Sri Lanka Navy have been released. The fisheries crisis worsened after a Tamil Nadu fisherman was shot dead allegedly by the Sri Lanka Navy. However, the Navy denied this allegation. Later in another incident Sri Lankan fishermen had reported to have surrounded a group of Tamil Nadu fishermen involved in poaching in Sri Lankan waters and handed them over to the law enforcement authorities.