IMBL meeting aims at cordial ties for Lankan, Indian Navies
At right: The SLN Fast Attack Craft in which the Sri Lankan
delegation reached the INS Kukri and (at left) the INS Kukri
When LTTE terrorism was at its peak in the late 1990s the
international maritime boundary line (IMBL) between Sri Lanka and India
became one of the hottest topics as it was the most crucial area that
was exploited by the LTTE to their advantage.
Whether it was arms smuggling, drug trafficking, poaching by
fishermen or illegal immigrants, all those issues had become sensitive
to the politics of both Sri Lanka and India, with the existence of LTTE
terrorism that affected the two countries at different levels.
29 1999 On board INS Saryu
26 2000 On board SLNS Shakthi
28 2001 On board INCG Varad
2001 On board SLNS Sayura
2002 On board INS Savitri
2002 On board SLNS Shakthi
2003 On board INCG Vajra
2003 On board SLNS Sayura
2004 On board INS Sukanya
30 2004 On board SLNS Sayura
2005 On board INS Sukanya
23 2006 On board SLNS Samudura
2006 On board INS Sukanya
12 2007 On board INCG Vajra
2007 On board SLNS Samudura
2008 On board INS Sukanya
2010 On board SLNS Sayura
29 2010 On board INS Kukri
There were periods where fingers were pointed at the Sri Lanka Navy
when Indian fishermen were killed in the Palk Strait in scenarios
created by the LTTE to tarnish the image of the Sri Lanka Navy and also
to antagonise the Indian authorities against Sri Lanka sometime leading
to bigger political issues affecting the two countries.
But, the cordial relations that existed between the Navies was the
bond that kept relations between the two countries over these issues
unshaken and unshattered.
When the Indian media and some politicians stood against the Sri
Lanka Navy the Indian Navy always stood firmly by the side of the Sri
Lanka Navy explicitly exhibiting the cordial relations that existed for
The IMBL meeting held biannually since 1999 aboard an Indian or Sri
Lankan ship in the general sea area between Talaimannar and Point Pedro
has become a vital meeting which helped the Navies of the two countries
to sort out issues that affect them.
“The biannual IMBL meeting was started to create a forum for both
Navies to sit together and discuss the issues affecting the two Navies
patrolling the IMBL between the two countries”, Captain Athula Senerath
said, explaining the history behind the biannual IMBL meeting.
The first IMBL meeting was held on November 29, 1999 on board INS
Saryu. The location for the meeting is decided according to the
condition of the sea but it is generally a location between Talaimannar
to Point Pedro, but not beyond that area, Captain Senerath said.
The two Navies have this meeting on rotational basis on board an
Indian or Sri Lankan ship.
“But occasionally due to operational commitments and other reasons
there have been instances the meetings were not held biannually”,
Captain Senerath added.
However, the two Navies are committed to continue the bond. The 18th
IMBL meeting was held on September 29 on board the Indian vessel INS
Kukri, an offshore petrol vessel.
“At most of these meetings the poaching by fishermen on each others
territorial waters has become the most discussed issue”, he added.
As explained by the Navy Commander, Vice Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe
to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) last month,
more than 500 Indian trawlers daily entered Lankan waters before the
humanitarian operation ended and there were no Lankan fishermen on sea.
According to him more than 2000 Indian fishing trawlers used to fish
in the Northern territorial waters in the absence of the Sri Lankan
“Among the Indian boats there were LTTE boats smuggling fuel. The Sri
Lanka Navy had the tough task of locating LTTE boats among this fleet”,
the Navy Commander told the LLRC.
Indian and Sri Lanka Navy officials greet each other
On board the INS Kukri on Sept. 29, 2010.
His statement to the LLRC explained the serious situation the Sri
Lanka Navy had to face during the conflict period as this maritime
boundary was exploited by the LTTE for their existence and to reach
their terror and political ends.
Poaching on Indian territorial waters by Sri Lankan fishermen also
has become a frequent problem for the Indian Navy and coast guards as
hundreds of Sri Lankan fishermen end up being arrested by Indian coast
guards and Navy.
According to Fisheries Ministry statistics 322 fishermen and 60 boats
were detained by the Indian Navy and coast guards within the first six
months of the year. But due to the active involvement of the Fisheries
Ministry, so far 270 fishermen and 46 fishing trawlers have been
released by the Indian authorities.
The Fisheries Ministry states that only 52 fishermen and technicians
and 14 boats are yet to be released by the Indian authorities to Sri
However, the Sri Lanka Navy though used to detained some of the
Indian trawlers entering Sri Lankan waters during the conflict period
had not detained a single Indian trawler in the post war scenario.
The situation on the part of Sri Lanka has improved as not a single
fisherman or fishing boat had been detained by Indian officials since
July this year as a result of the intense awareness campaign carried out
by the Fisheries Ministry.
At the 18th IMBL meeting, the two Navies also agreed to conduct more
awareness programs among the fishing community so that they would not
poach into each other, territorial waters.
The Sri Lanka delegation to the meeting at Point Calimere was headed
by Deputy Chief of Staff and the Commander Northern Naval Area, Rear
Admiral Susith Weerasekara and included the Director Naval Operations,
Commodore Neil Rosayro representing the Sri Lanka Navy.
Usually, the Northern Naval Area Commander is the one who heads the
delegation from the Sri Lanka Navy, with representatives from Navy
Headquarters and from the North Western and Eastern Naval Area also
The Indian delegation was headed by Naval Officer In-Charge, Tamil
Nadu and Pondicherry Commodore Rajiv Girotra.
The Indian team also included Deputy Inspector General Y.K. Singh,
Chief of Staff, Operations, Coast Guard, Eastern Region and six others.
The Indian delegation, which flew from the INS Parundu, a naval air
station at Uchipuli, landed on the INS Kukri in a helicopter, the Sri
Lankan delegation reached IMBL by a Sri Lankan Navy ship.
During the meeting, measures to be adopted in order to improve
security especially in the Palk Strait, including further action to be
taken to prevent smuggling of narcotics and other items, transporting of
illegal immigrants and human smuggling were discussed, Captain Senerath
“The two Navies are committed to working out programs they agree on
at these meetings since it is the basis to promote cordial relations
between the two Navies in the future”, he conclude.