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Border Disputes at Sea: The Escalating Conflict in the Palk Strait

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In a recent escalation of maritime tensions, Sri Lanka’s Navy has detained 21 Indian fishermen for allegedly poaching in the nation’s territorial waters. The incident unfolded in the northeastern waters off Mannar and Kovilan, marking a significant development in the longstanding issue of fishermen trespassing into each other’s waters. This arrest brings the total number of such incidents to 195 in 2023, emphasizing the severity of the ongoing dispute and its potential impact on diplomatic relations between India and Sri Lanka. The Palk Strait, a crucial fishing ground shared by both nations, continues to be a focal point for confrontations, underscoring the urgent need for a diplomatic resolution.

The Palk Strait, a narrow waterway separating Tamil Nadu from Sri Lanka, has become a focal point for disputes over fishing rights. While it is a vital fishing ground for both nations, disagreements over the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) have led to a series of incidents, including the firing upon and seizure of boats belonging to Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy.

The recent arrests occurred in the northeastern waters off Mannar and Kovilan, as the Sri Lankan Navy seized four trawlers in the process. The cumulative number of Indian fishermen arrested in 2023, now at 195, highlights the severity of the ongoing issue.

The contentious maritime boundary has been a persistent source of tension, resulting in periodic clashes between fishermen and naval forces. The Sri Lankan Navy’s actions, including firing upon Indian fishermen in the Palk Strait, have further escalated diplomatic tensions.

The impact of these incidents on diplomatic relations between India and Sri Lanka is palpable. The need for a diplomatic resolution to address the root causes of these confrontations is increasingly urgent. Clear mechanisms for handling maritime disputes and preventing future incidents must be established through diplomatic channels.

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