Over 6,000 Indian Fishers Detained In 20-Years

Over 6,000 Indian Fishers Detained By Sri Lanka Over Past Two Decades - Jaishankar

by Zulfick Farzan 01-04-2024 | 2:16 PM

COLOMBO (News 1st); Dr. S. Jaishankar, India's External Affairs Minister, stressed on the historical context and contemporary challenges stemming from the 1974 Maritime Boundary Agreement between India and Sri Lanka.

Speaking on the matter, Dr. Jaishankar underscored the significance of understanding the nuances of this agreement and its implications for both nations, particularly in relation to the fishing communities.

The 1974 agreement delineated the maritime boundary between India and Sri Lanka, with Katchatheevu falling within Sri Lankan jurisdiction. However, Dr. Jaishankar pointed out three critical clauses within the agreement. Firstly, it affirmed each country's sovereignty and exclusive control over the waters. Secondly, it assured Indian fishermen continued access to Katchatheevu without the need for travel documents. Lastly, it stipulated reciprocal rights for the vessels of both nations in each other's waters.

Highlighting subsequent developments, Dr. Jaishankar referenced an exchange of letters less than two years later, which established exclusive economic zones for both countries. Under this arrangement, India and Sri Lanka were granted sovereign rights over the resources within their respective zones. Importantly, Indian fishermen were prohibited from fishing in certain designated areas of Sri Lanka's waters.

Drawing attention to the consequences of these agreements, Dr. Jaishankar noted a significant rise in detentions and seizures of Indian fishermen and fishing vessels by Sri Lanka.

Over the past two decades, 6184 Indian fishermen have been detained, along with 1175 fishing vessels, by Sri Lankan authorities.

Emphasizing the ongoing relevance of this issue, Dr. Jaishankar highlighted its continuous debate in Indian parliamentary discussions and within Tamil Nadu circles. He noted that every major political party in Tamil Nadu has taken a stance on the matter, with the Katchatheevu and fishermen issues featuring prominently in their agendas.

In a notable statement, Dr. Jaishankar criticized certain political parties, namely the Congress and the DMK, for seemingly absolving themselves of responsibility in addressing the issue. He urged all stakeholders to recognize the urgency of resolving the maritime boundary dispute and its impact on the livelihoods of Indian fishermen.