Sept 17, Colombo: In response to the pressure from the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and other political parties over the alleged attacks on the fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy, the central Indian government is considering a plan to set up a trade center in the Kachchativu island which is at the center of the dispute.
The arrests of Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy for violating the International Maritime Boundary Line and entering into Sri Lanka waters for fishing have been a constant consternation for both governments of India and Sri Lanka.
As a solution to the issue, the Indian government has proposed some measures which include the idea to make Katchatheevu a trade center where Indian and Lankan traders could barter their products and sign various trade pacts, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, E. M. Sudarsana Natchiappan has told Indian media.
"We are informally thinking, at the central government, to moot the idea of making Katchatheevu a trade centre to Sri Lanka," the Union Minister has said.
"Once a trade centre is established there, ferries could be operated," he has explained.
He has noted that in the past Indian and Lankan fishermen used to barter their produce and goods during the St Antony festival at the islet.
India under an Indian Supreme Court directive ceded Kachchativu, an uninhabited island in the Palk straits with only a Catholic shrine, to Sri Lanka in 1974.
The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu J. Jayalalithaa has challenged the 1974 Supreme Court decision and has filed a case to overturn the ruling and take back the island. The Tamil Nadu government refuses to accept the sovereignty of Sri Lanka over the island.
Under the signing of the 1976 Agreement and the Exchange of Letters between India and Sri Lanka, fishing vessels and fishermen of one country fishing in the others' waters is clearly prohibited.
However, Indian fishermen, mainly from Tamil Nadu, continue to poach in the waters of the Sri Lankan side of International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).
The Indian government has also considered a suggestion that the respective fishermen could fish on alternative days so that both could be benefited.
According to the Minister, the Centre has sought the state's cooperation to complete a fishing harbor project which when completed would enable the Indian fishermen to net fish in Indian territorial waters.