The relationship between Sri Lanka and India dates back many centuries. Both countries continue to share similar values, beliefs and cultural practices over the years. Both countries have benefited from each other on various occasions in the past.
In fact, India gave the greatest gift of Buddhism to Sri Lanka.
Despite these close ties which had lasted for ages, Sri Lanka’s relationship with Tamil Nadu in particular has been on the rocks over the past two years.
The final stages of the war in Sri Lanka created quite a bit of agitation in Tamil Nadu, which called for the then Central Government led by the Congress to pressurize the Sri Lankan Government to stop fighting.
The then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and his rival Jayalalithaa Jayaram (the current Chief Minister) played the Sri Lankan war as a trump card in the State elections two years after the end of the war.
It was a time when a Sri Lankan citizen would think twice of setting foot in the State owing to its anger towards the country.
Sure enough, the war created a division between Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu which is the closest State to the country in geographical terms.
But on the other hand, there were, and are, other issues too that have kept people of both places at loggerheads.
Clashes of fishermen
The most notable one is the clash between the fishermen. This is one reason which continues to be a stumbling block between Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu. The issue was prevalent even during the war but to a lesser extent.
Since the end of the war, fishermen from both countries have leveled allegations on each other for encroaching into their respective seas.
Several attempts to solve the issue ended in failures. The Sri Lankan Government, on numerous occasions has released Indian fishermen who were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy after they had allegedly encroached into Sri Lankan waters.
The Tamil Nadu fishermen who had denied crossing over to Sri Lankan waters have alleged that they were attacked by the Navy on numerous occasions, an allegation denied by the Navy.
However, the fishermen in Jaffna have stated that their livelihoods had been affected due to the encroachment of Indian fishermen who had used illegal methods to fish.
Accordingly, the Indian fishermen indulge in bottom trawling, which destroys the natural habitat of fish and thereby reducing the fish population to a large extent.
Both parties have been levelling allegations against each other and steps taken to solve the matter had always ended without results.
The Tamil Nadu Government, while blaming the Sri Lankan Government for the situation, has also pointed fingers at the Indian Central Government for not taking the issue too seriously. In fact, numerous letters written to the Centre by the Tamil Nadu Chief Ministers have not been met with the desired response.
Resolving this issue is one crucial aspect to ensure cordial relationship between both the Governments. With the Tamil Nadu State Assembly elections out of the way, it gives the newly elected Chief Minister to renew efforts to solve the issue with the support of fishermen from both ends of the Palk Strait.
It is in fact ironic that the same people who claim to have supported the Tamils in Sri Lanka during the time of war, are now affecting their livelihood.
Sri Lanka and India have signed several bilateral agreements in order to strengthen their ties. Both countries have assisted each other in times of need. The brotherhood that was built over centuries should not go in vein due to issues such as this.