India has reportedly called upon its fishers and their Sri Lankan counterparts, scheduled to meet in Chennai on Jan. 20, to participate in talks with all seriousness and resolve the contentious issue of poaching. Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambaram is sanguine about a solution being evolved if there is goodwill on both sides. He has also faulted the Tamil Nadu government for not cooperating and causing delays in finalising talks. One should not be so naive as to expect its cooperation to solve the problem.
The Chennai fishers conference on the cards is of interest. Not even sports events where Sri Lankans take part are allowed to be held in that part of India Jayalalithaa scuttles them all. Strangely, she has not threatened to sabotage the fishermen s talks. Why?
Jayalalithaa and others of her ilk, still smarting from the defeat of the LTTE and the collapse of their Eelam project in Sri Lanka, encourage illegal fishing by way of an assault on Sri Lanka s sovereignty. They are all out to use the fishing issue to ruin Indo-Lanka relations so as to further their separatist interests.
Indian fishermen are only pawns in a political game Jayalalithaa et al have been playing all these years. Fisheries Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne has said that the Indian vessels engaged in poaching in Sri Lankan waters are owned by Tamil Nadu politicians who rent them out on the strict condition that they be deployed in Sri Lankan waters. Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, it may be recalled, has gone on record as saying that she is ready go to the extent of having India make a military intervention in Sri Lanka to carve out Eelam.
The Tamil Nadu politicians are only fishing in troubled waters and their intransigence is obvious. They have made their position patently clear: the rights of Tamil Nadu people to fish in traditional waters should be respected. They are apparently on a campaign to establish control over part of Sri Lanka s territorial waters. No solution that will not grant their fishers unbridled access to Sri Lankan waters will be acceptable to them.
The pro-LTTE Tamil Nadu politicians game plan is clear and as for the efforts being made to solve the issue of poaching through discussions, never the twain shall meet. Whatever the outcome of the Chennai meeting will be, Tamil Nadu politicians will pursue their not-so-hidden agenda and perpetuate the dispute which they cannot do without. They will throw a monkey wrench in the works. All signs are that India and Sri Lanka will be toiling in vain.