Print
XClose
Press Information Bureau
Government of India
Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare
05-November-2016 16:59 IST
India - Sri Lanka Meeting on Fishermen issues (5 November 2016, New Delhi)

Address by the Minister of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Shri Radha Mohan Singh

Ministry of Agriculture Ministry of Agriculture

1.      I extend my warm welcome to Sri Lankan Foreign Minister H.E. Mangala Samaraweera, Sri Lankan Fisheries Minister H.E. Mahinda Amraveera and all other members of the Sri Lankan delegation to India.

2.      I am especially thankful to H.E. Mahinda Amraveera, for accepting my invitation for this visit to New Delhi.

3.      I hope that we will move forward towards a meaningful solution through discussion on Fishermen’s issues between both the countries.

4.      The relationship between India and Sri Lanka is more than 2,500 years old. Both countries have a legacy of intellectual, cultural, religious and linguistic interaction. Trade and investment have grown and there is cooperation in the fields of development, education, culture and defence. Both countries share a broad understanding on major issues of international interest.

5.      Fishermen from India and Sri Lanka have been fishing over centuries in the Palk Bay area located between India and Sri Lanka. [Both the countries have mutually entered into agreement in 1974 and in 1976 to decide the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) in accordance with the international rules, and we have full respect to the same.]

6.      Given the proximity of the two countries in the sea, the incidents of straying of fishermen and crossing the IMBL are common, especially in the Palk-Strait and Gulf of Mannar. These have often proved to be risky for them. The instances of arrest of fishermen from Tamil Nadu (while fishing in Sri Lankan waters), seizure of their boats and attack by the Sri Lankan Navy are of great concern to the Indian government.

7.      Both the countries should agree upon a real and practical arrangement to address the issue of crossing the IMBL by fishermen. Issues related to the custody of fishermen should settle on 'humanitarian grounds' which may only be possible through mutual consent between both the countries.

8.      The Government of India is committed to find a permanent solution to this problem. During the India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission meeting held in Colombo in February 2016, both the sides have understood the complexity of the fishermen’s issues and consented on the need of moving forward in finding a permanent solution of this problem. The Fishermen's issues were also discussed during the meeting between Prime Minister of India and the President of Sri Lanka held in New Delhi in May 2016, wherein the top leaders of the two countries discussed the matter for finding a permanent solution to this problem.

9.      Taking a step forward in this direction, we sent invitation on 22 July, 2016 to Fisheries Minister of Sri Lanka to visit India. Welcoming this initiative of ours, Sri Lanka also sent a positive message by immediately releasing Indian fishermen. India welcomes this gesture. Recently, Sri Lanka has again released our fishermen for which we express our gratitude.

10.  We are aware of the concerns expressed by Sri Lankan fishermen during meeting between Fishermen’s Associations of India and Sri Lanka held on 2nd November, 2016. Their demand for ban on bottom trawling or other destructive fishing methods, which cause harm to the marine environment and biodiversity in the Palk Bay, seems to be genuine. In order to ensure availability of natural resources to future generation while meeting the livelihood needs of the present, we have to make conscious and collective efforts.

 

11.  We should also take forward the bilateral mechanisms of Joint Working Group (JWG) between India and Sri Lanka for cooperation in Fisheries and issues related to early release of fishermen and related matters.

 

12.  The talks between fishermen’s association of India and Sri Lanka held on 2nd November, 2016, in a positive and amicable environment. Though, the discussion could not reach a concrete understanding, yet we believe that this problem can be permanently resolved by taking fishermen associations into confidence in the decision making process.

 

13.  The State Govt. of Tamil Nadu and also the Union Government have taken a few effective measures to help Indian fishermen earn their livelihood in Palk bay area peacefully and stop bottom trawling in a phased manner.

 

14.  In order to reduce fishing pressure in the coastal areas and to encourage the Deep-sea fishing the Government of India is considering the modalities for implementation of a Scheme, in which it is proposed to incentivize the traditional fishermen for Deep- Sea Fishing. Traditional Fishermen from Coastal states including fishers from Tamil Nadu will be empowered under the proposed scheme for 'Deep-sea fishing’. We hope that the fishermen from the coastal areas will be encouraged to move for Deep Sea Fishing through introduction of this scheme. 

 

15.  A ‘Special Package’ is being considered for encouraging the fishermen of Tamil Nadu to undertake deep sea fishing by diversifying their bottom trawlers into Tuna long liners. Our Department (DADF/MoAFW) has permitted for construction of fishing harbour at Mukaiyur, which is being executed by the State Government. At the same time, efforts are also being made regarding construction of fishing harbours at Rameshvaram and Ennore in Tamil Nadu. All these efforts may be useful in solving the fishermen issues between India and Sri Lanka. Besides, efforts are also being made to introduce modern technical information to the fishermen and to train them.

 

16.  We believe that today's meeting will be fruitful, and both the countries would be able to find out permanent solutions to the problems and issues of fishermen on either side through our collective efforts. I wish that your stay in India is pleasant and memorable.

 

         Thank you.

                                                                                           ****

      ss/vl/mi