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Essence: The editorial talks about the issue of poaching by Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan waters and in return, Sri Lanka internationalizing this issue with USA. There are many issues with such a Sri Lankan stand. Firstly, bilateral issues have been dealt with, through SoP between MEA, GoI and Sri Lankan Navy or SL government. Secondly, whether the Fisheries Minister had the support of Sri Lankan govt (PM/President) before bringing up the issue with USA is another question. Thirdly, it opens up questions of wider dimensions of history and boundary between both the nations.
The 1974 ‘IMBL agreement’ between the two nations delineated the ‘international maritime boundary line’ and later agreements exempted the use of median line to determine the IMBL, and accepted deviations agreed to by the stakeholder-nations. Through this, the Katchchativu islet, which was closer to Indian side, was passed to Sri Lanka. SL Naval boats approaching the island and refusal to Indian fishermen to fish in the region irked the Tamil politicians. Poll promises were made to take the islet back and it has become an irritant in the region.
Next, the 1974 agreement ensured that the Palk Strait was made “a bilateral pond”, rather than a region of international transit. If the issue is further internationalized, it could be to the jeopardy of both the nations that USA asks for freedom of navigation operations (FONOP) at Palk Bay region. Thus, escalation of such issues could be avoided for the larger welfare of the locals and the 2 nations in focus.
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