Differences between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen’s associations spilled into relations between the two governments, as India responded sharply to the Sri Lankan Fisheries Minister’s refusal of a proposal to allow Indian fishermen into Sri Lankan waters for 65 days.

In a statement, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs called remarks by Minister Mahinda Amaraweera “not helpful” to the government’s efforts at finding a solution to the issue.
Speaking to The Hindu, Amaraweera had said, “We will not allow them (Indian fishermen) to do fishing even for a single day in our waters.” In response to India’s proposal to allow Indian fishermen to fish for a few days each year, he told an agency, “Not 65 days, we will not agree for even 65 hours” and made it clear that the Sri Lankan navy would continue to arrest Indian fishermen if they were found in their waters.

The MEA spokesperson said, “We also have concerns about Sri Lankan fishermen fishing in Indian waters. Frequently, Sri Lankan fishermen are apprehended in our waters. However, we recognize that this is a complex livelihood issue, which has a humanitarian dimension….In this context, such remarks are not helpful.”

The impasse between the two sides has grown in the past few months when Prime Minister Modi and President Sirisena had met and tasked the local fishermen’s associations with finding a solution to the decades-old problem of sovereignty in the waters. Sri Lanka contends that Indian fishermen use mechanized bottom trawlers that depletes fish population.

Earlier this month, the Sri Lankan Fishermen Federation took a “unanimous position” to ask the government to deny access to Indian fishermen, which would have an adverse impact on fishermen in TN who depend on the waters between the two countries for their livelihood. (The Hindu)