Sri Lankan Navy arrests 12 Indian fishermen

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Sri Lankan Navy arrests 12 Indian fishermen

  • The fishers were fishing near Katchatheevu late on Saturday when they were apprehended by the Lankan navy.
  • This is the third instance of the Lankan navy picking up Indian fishermen for alleged maritime boundary violation, since March 29.
  • Two boats used by the fishermen were also then seized.

Issue of Kachchatheevu

  • One of the major reasons complicating the issue is of Kachchatheevu Island.
  • India ceded the uninhabited island to its southern neighbour in 1974 under a conditional accord.
  • In fact, initially the 1974 border agreement did not affect fishing on either sides of the border.
  • In 1976, through an exchange of letter, both India and Sri Lanka agreed to stop fishing in each other’s waters.
  • In 2009, the Sri Lankan government declared Kachchatheevu Island as sacred land owing to a Catholic shrine’s presence on the piece of land.
  • The issue arises more out of a domestic tussle rather than the India-Sri Lanka view on the issue.
  • The Central government of India, according to the 1974 accord, recognises Sri Lanka’s sovereignty over Kachchatheevu.
  • Tamil fishermen believe that Kachchatheevu is traditionally their territory and so they have a right to fish there.
  • The Sri Lankan authorities believe that this endangers the livelihood of Sri Lankan fishermen.

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Historical Background

  • Earlier, it was owned by the Ramnad Kingdom of Ramanathapuram Rameshwaram which later came under the Madras Presidency during British rule of India.
  • It was recognised by Ceylon as part of British India after the delimitation of Gulf of Mannar and Palk Strait between the then governments of Madras and Ceylon.
  • However in 1921, both Sri Lanka and India laid claims to Katchatheevu.

Related steps Taken

  • The IMBL is imaginary, but it was geo-tagged and is visible to the fishermen, due to Global Positioning System (GPS) sets.
  • Deep Sea Fishing Scheme:
    • Promoted as an alternative to bottom trawling by Tamil Nadu’s fishermen off the Palk Bay, the scheme envisages the provision of 2,000 deep sea fishing boats in place of trawlers by 2019-20, which will be the third and final year of implementation of the scheme.
    • It aims to put an end to disputes arising between the two countries.
    • It has been taken up under the ‘Blue Revolution’ scheme.

Way Forward

  • The fishing equipment that is prohibited in Sri Lanka must be banned by India in the Palk Bay. Fishing practises that do irreparable damage to marine ecology must be given up.
  • The damage to the Indian fishermen could be ameliorated if the announcement is followed by two steps.
    • The trawlers can be used in the Odisha coast where waters are very deep
    • Trawlers could, with certain modifications, be used as smaller fishing vessels that cater to the mothership.
  • India can transform the Palk Bay from a contested territory to a common heritage.
    • The first step is to recognise that there are various stakeholders—two Union and provincial governments, the Navies and Coast Guards, fisheries departments and above all, fishing communities of the two countries.
    • The next step should be to form a Palk Bay Authority (PBA) consisting of marine ecologists, fisheries experts, strategic specialists and government representatives.
    • The PBA could determine the ideal sustainable catch, type of fishing equipment that can be used, and the number of fishing dates for Sri Lankan and Indian fishermen.
    • The focus should be on enrichment of marine resources and improvement of the livelihoods of fishermen.


  • India can try to get back the island of Kachchatheevu on “lease in perpetuity”. Permit licensed Indian fishermen to fish within a designated area of Sri Lankan waters and vice versa. There is a glaring need for institutionalisation of fishing in Indian waters by the government of India so that alternative means of livelihood are provided. Government will have to mark up a comprehensive plan to reduce the dependence of Indian fishermen on catch from Palk Bay.

Exam Track

Prelims takeaway

  • Location based questions
  • Palk bay
  • Katchatheevu Island issue
  • Palk Bay Authority

Mains Track

Q. India-Sri Lanka relations are now getting back on track again in the face of India helping the island country in the current times of financial crisis. However, an unresolved fisherman issue may cause the relations to hit an iceberg again. Comment.