After the second round of talks with the Sri Lankan fishermen on the dispute over fishing in the Palk Bay ended in a deadlock, Rameswaram fishermen have pinned their hopes on the NDA government being formed at the Centre to resolve the problem.

After the first round of talks in Chennai on January 27, the Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu and northern Sri Lankan fishermen sat down for the second round in Colombo on May 12. But the talks failed as the Sri Lankan fishermen insisted that the Indian fishermen stop bottom-trawling and crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).

The stalemate has come as a ‘blessing in disguise’ for the fishermen here as they hope the new government at the Centre would help them resolve the problem with the support of the Tamil Nadu government.

“A Central government, which had been blaming the State for the impasse, is gone, and the fishing community is looking up to the new government for a solution,” said fishermen leaders U. Arulanadham, P. Sesu Raja and N.J. Bose.

Top priority

Conveying their greetings to Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, for their historic victories in the Lok sabha elections, they appealed to them to prioritise the fishermen issue and restore their traditional rights in the Palk Bay.

Recalling that both Mr. Modi and senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj had promised to find a lasting solution to the problem and create a separate Ministry for fisheries, the leaders urged the new government to take up the issue with the Sri Lankan government. “As we can’t move forward without the help of the Tamil Nadu government, the Chief Minister should help us find a solution, using her rapport with Mr. Modi,” Mr. Arulanandham, who met her before the elections to pledged fishermen’s support to the AIADMK, told The Hindu .

Sri Lankan officials blamed

As for the second round of talks, he said the Sri Lankan fishermen agreed to an “unwritten agreement” that Indian fishermen could fish in the Palk Bay after crossing the IMBL, but they should stay away five km from the Sri Lankan coast and phase out bottom-trawling in three years. But the Sri Lankan officials complicated the issue, by making the IMBL a point of discussion and insisting that Indian fishermen not cross it, he said.

‘Restore our traditional rights to fish in Palk Bay’