‘Political compromises’ can end fishing disputes: Rao


New Delhi : “Political compromises” were needed to resolve the recurring disputes between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen in the sea dividing the two countries, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao has said.

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“Our aim should be to ensure a peaceful settlement of these issues and stability of existence of our fishing communities on both sides. This will involve some degree of political compromise,” she said late Monday.

Rao made the remarks after inaugurating a two-day conference on fishing disputes organised by the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi-based public policy think tank.

She did not elaborate what the “political compromises” were.

Expressing the need to study the experiences of other Asian countries, she suggested joint management of fisheries resources, alternative methods of fishing and examining alternative livelihood for fishermen.

She noted that many countries regard fisheries as “common pool resources” since fish care nothing about political boundaries.

“The exploitation of fisheries resources in such a situation can only be managed effectively by cooperation between the states concerned,” she said, adding “the issue of fisheries is definitely not a zero sum game” and that a solution can be found to the dispute.

Rao said India and Sri Lanka were engaged in a dialogue at all levels to address the problem comprehensively and work out a practical arrangement to allow the fishing communities on both sides to coexist peacefully.

Rao said fishermen’s associations had a major role to play as they interact with each other, understand each other’s problems better and have the ability to come out with ideas to resolve the issue.

She suggested studying the experiences of other Asian countries, especially China and Vietnam, which have signed pacts regulating fishing in their area.

The foreign secretary said China and Vietnam also prohibit destructive fishing, like use of explosives, besides restricting bottom sea trawling.

India shares 7,500 km of coastline and maritime boundary with several neighbours including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia.

Scholars and officials from India, Sri Lanka, Japan, Holland, Denmark and Australia took part in the conference.