Tamil Nadu fishermen have been rejoicing ever since President Mahinda Rajapaksa ordered the release of all Indian fishermen and trawlers in Sri Lankan custody, but fishermen of northern Sri Lanka remain rather concerned over the delay in holding the second round of discussions between fishermen of both countries.
“The Sri Lankan government released the Indian fishermen after India abstained at Geneva. Both governments have reconciled, the Tamil Nadu fishermen are also happy, but our future alone remains a big question mark,” said N.M. Aalam, president of the Mannar Fisheries Cooperative Union.
On March 27, soon after the Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted the U.S.-backed resolution calling for an international probe in Sri Lanka — 23 countries voted in favour of the resolution, 12 against it and 12, including India, abstained — President Rajapaksa ordered the release of the 98 Indian fishermen who were then under custody here, and their trawlers that had been seized.
This decision, termed by his office a “goodwill gesture” in return for India’s stance at Geneva, was received with great joy in India, particularly by Tamil Nadu fishermen. Fisher leaders in Tamil Nadu, over the next couple of days, even gave out interviews pointing to the Sri Lankan Navy’s “courteous” treatment of and “hospitality” to Tamil Nadu fishermen who were fishing near Katchatheevu.
“All that is fine, but we need a lasting solution. The Sri Lankan government needs a consistent policy on this. The talks have to be held,” Mr. Aalam told The Hindu on Monday, adding that northern fishermen are concerned that they have become pawns in what fishermen perceive as diplomatic trade-offs.
The talks — to be held as a follow-up to the first meeting held in Chennai on January 27 — were scheduled for March 13, but postponed to March 25. They were cancelled again as Sri Lanka, which had made arrangements for the meetings, did not hear from the Indian side, and there has been no update since.