Expecting breakthrough in talks

Fishing boatFishermen leaders of Rameswaram are confident of reaching an agreement in the dispute over fishing in the Palk Bay in the third round of talks scheduled to be held in Chennai on Tuesday with their Sri Lankan counterparts.

“It was unfortunate that the second round of talks held in Colombo on May 12 ended in stalemate but we are confident of achieving a breakthrough tomorrow,” U. Arulanandam, president of Alliance for the Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF), told The Hindu on Monday. Fishermen of the two countries were desperate to find a mutually acceptable solution, he said. The Lankan fishermen could no longer afford to harden their stand on bottom trawling by Indian fishermen as they could not abandon bottom trawling all of a sudden.

The Colombo talks had failed after the Lankan fishermen, ‘tutored’ by officials, hardened their stand on Indian fishermen crossing the International Maritime Border Line (IMBL) and using bottom trawling. “But this time, they have to climb down to arrive at an agreement,” he said.

The questions of to what extent the Indian fishermen could cross the IMBL, what should be the monitoring mechanism and who should regulate fishing in the Pak Bay would dominate the proceedings in the talks, he opined. A solution could be arrived at only if India and Sri Lanka took the responsibility to implement the agreement reached in the talks and regulate fishing in the Palk Bay, he said.

“We are confident of reaching an agreement this time,” fishermen leader P Sesu Raja said. Both the fishermen depend on the Palk Bay for their livelihood and it was high time “we reached an agreement,” he said. The Indian fishermen enjoyed traditional fishing rights in the Palk Bay and “it is enough if we are allowed trouble-free fishing for just two days in a week,” he said.

The leaders exuded confidence that the efforts taken by the Tamil Nadu government to find a solution and the change of government both in Sri Lanka and India would make a major difference in the third round of talks. (The Hindu)

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