If Indian fishermen did not poach on Sri Lanka’s territorial waters during LTTE terror rule, why now?

Indian Fishermen

– by Shenali D Waduge –

There is something more than fishy about the sudden surge in Indian fishermen poaching on Sri Lankan territorial waters leading to a diplomatic debacle between India and Sri Lanka. Given that the culprits are fishermen and fishing is their livelihood what no one seems to answer is, did the LTTE face similar incursions by Indian fishermen and if so how did India, Tamil Nadu and the LTTE deal with the matter? It is pretty obvious that if Indian fishermen did not intrude into Sri Lankan waters during LTTE defacto rule or if they did it would have been with some explicit mutual understanding and explains why Tamil Nadu or India did not send its External Affairs Minister to demand why Indian fishermen were being illtreated by the LTTE as India is currently doing against the GOSL. If we wondered where some of LTTE’s arms and other logistics came from we should now know the answer including mercenary forces replenished when cadres were in scarcity. Now what would India’s External Affairs Minister have to say about this!

Let us first look at who these Indian fishermen are. For starters they do not have Bachelors or Masters Degrees to know where or how to differentiate international maritime boundary. There are 396,000 of them too and Tamil Nadu is the 3rd largest fish exporting state. The fishing fleet consists of about 46,000 crafts. Therefore, it is natural that any fishermen would stray into waters that fish abound more so since there is no marine wealth in the Indian side and fish abound in Sri Lankan waters. If more than 1000 Indian boats stray into Sri Lankan waters daily – did such a number arrive during LTTE rule?

Next we come to the issue of fishermen and smuggling and LTTE would know better than any how that combination works given that Prabakran himself was a very versatile smuggler for both guns and drug trafficking. Notice the surge in drug trafficking from India to Sri Lanka of late and the number of arrests made. Prudent to also note is the rise in human smuggling and number of smugglers and the story is much more than going to a western country for better living. 400 or more Indian trawlers penetrating the Indian Coast guards can equate to smuggling far more than drugs, humans and when there is a chorus for the Sri Lankan military to depart from the North coming from the Indian Government, Tamil Nadu down to the TNA politicians we smell not fish but rats as well!

The LTTE-Tamil Nadu ties is nothing we need to return to and nothing India or Tamil Nadu can take offence against or challenge. Ample evidence prevails as to how Tamil Nadu became the second home to the LTTE and its leaders at one time using Chennai as one of their bases. Therefore, Indian fishermen roped into LTTE and making a living other than just fishing is something we need to now accept. Thus Indian fishermen being supporters of LTTE should not come as any shock even in diplomatic circles.

If LTTE and Indian fishermen were partners in crime is it possible that the relationship continues given that LTTE entire ground force has not been eliminated and the masterminds that ran the show still remain at large. We then come to the contentious issue of who these fishermen are. Virtually all of the Indian fishermen are Catholic (born or converted). It is no understatement to say that virtually the entire Southern belt of India has now been successfully converted and explains why there is an undercurrent in linking LTTE eelam project to the Church and many in India have not minced words to say that the entire LTTE Eelam project is funded by the Church and has nothing to do with creating an eelam for Hindu Tamils and this certainly is and should be open for debate. The Church maintains stoic silence on both Emmanuel and whether fishermen issue is choreographed by them but used conveniently by the Indian Government to coerce Sri Lanka’s knowing that Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry lacks the courage to defend the nation other than issuing half-hearted statements to gain distinction in English eloquence!

This aspect of the argument and the fishermen issue itself generates interest for the parties spearheading the international Tamil diaspora movement are all linked to Western Christian states and the LTTE-fronts come under Father S J V Emmanuel and his Global Tamil Forum and the Church has taken absolutely no action against Father Emmanuel or numerous other priests who had been associated with the LTTE over the years and continue to have links with the remnants.

Given this scenario we can maybe wonder whether there is a remote possibility that the fishermen incursions are perhaps directed and choreographed to create tension between the Indians and the Sri Lankan military and Government. But, surely India known to have first trained and launched Tamil militancy covertly would be well aware if such conniving was taking place and would apprise Sri Lanka’s counterparts of the devious plans by external forces and at least provide GPS tracking systems for the Indian vessels. Well, India’s diplomats would do that if they ran diplomacy with sincerity but a nation that put Kao plan clandestinely without any provocation from Sri Lanka cannot expect Sri Lanka to be too trusting of India’s sincerity especially when India without batting an eyelid endorsed not once but twice the US resolutions against Sri Lanka in Geneva.

In this context it is important for us to realize that India under Congress looks to be steadily moving towards a Divided States of India under the new found friend in US and it is looking towards the new opposition contender for the Indian Premier stake that may bring India to where it should stand – in Asia and among Asian nations. Though Sri Lankan media following the psyche of western-influenced and dominated media would not give Narendra Modi the air time he deserves and now commands, Mr. Modi speaking recently in Tiruchirappali, Tamil Nadu to a crowd of more than 300,000 criticized the Manmohan Singh Government for the fishermen issue and not Sri Lanka. We reiterate again that with India under Congress influence and the foreign connection that steers decision making the likelihood of an Eelam being carved out like Kosovo is more probable than under BJP which clearly realizes that breaking Sri Lanka would mean eventually breaking up India. The danger for India lies unfortunately in those they have chosen to lead India and calls to wake up the Indian think tanks who would not wish to balkanize India whatever odds.

What is interesting at this juncture is to know what TNA and Chief Minister Wigneswaran has to say on the matter of Indian fishermen poaching into Sri Lankan waters and confiscating the fish that belongs to the Sri Lankan Tamil fishermen most of whom also happen to be non-Hindus.

The fact remains that during LTTE rule, no Tamil Nadu Chief Minister went ranting as they currently do, Tamil Nadu fishermen did not confiscate Sri Lanka’s fish though they did enter Sri Lankan territorial waters for different reasons and no TNA politician cited the North either. Today, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister is more concerned about what happens in Sri Lanka than in her own state, Tamil Nadu fishermen are getting away with Rs.64billion worth of fish that belongs rightfully to Sri Lanka and these fish should belong to Sri Lankan fishermen and TNA and Chief Minister Wigneswaran must be concerned about bringing revenue to Sri Lanka before going after an utopian self-determination bid. It may be convenient for TNA and the Chief Minister to join the anti-Sri Lankan publicity horse that conveniently side-tracks the real issue of Indian fishermen stealing fish from Sri Lankan waters and making a living and that livelihood rightfully belongs to the fishermen in the Northern seas and this is what the TNA needs to address as a priority.

What is definitely obvious is that there is more to the issue than just fishing and the Indian Government and Tamil Nadu are well aware of this and so too are the external factors who are watching from the balcony the production of their own drama.