Seeking a “decisive shift” in the Centre’s stance vis-a-vis Sri Lanka on the arrest of Tamil Nadu fishermen, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa today urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to secure the release of 33 fishermen, arrested by the island nation’s navy, and ensure a lasting solution to the issue.
In a letter to Modi for the first time on the fishermen issue, Jayalalithaa said 33 fishermen from Rameswaram fishing base in Tamil Nadu, along with their seven fishing boats, were apprehended by the Sri Lankan Navy on Sunday.
Stating that the previous UPA regime’s response on the issue was “meek,” which “emboldened” Lanka, she recalled that there were 76 incidents of apprehension and 67 incidents of attacks on fishermen of Tamil Nadu in the past three years by Sri Lankan Navy.
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Her numerous letters to the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking “strong diplomatic action” was of “no avail,” she charged.
“I hope that there will now be a decisive shift in the Centre’s stance under your leadership and that India will now take necessary steps to find a lasting solution to this vexatious question,” she said in her letter.
The “resumption of abductions and detentions” by Sri Lanka had sent shock waves among the fishermen right at the beginning of the fishing season today, after a 45-day fishing ban, she noted.
“There was an expectation that, with the change of government at the Centre, there would be a reset in the relations with Sri Lanka and such attacks and apprehensions would cease.”
Seeking Modi’s intervention, she said, “we hope that the firmness of India’s response would ensure that such instances do not recur hereafter.”
The fishermen’s right to fish in their traditional waters of the Palk Bay was allegedly being infringed repeatedly and effectively abrogated by Sri Lanka, she said.
“This [infringement] is caused in no small measure because of India having entered into an ill-advised agreement, which ceded to Sri Lanka the islet of Katchatheevu, which was historically part of India’s territory and undisputedly an integral part of India.”
Referring to the bilateral fishermen level talks in Chennai (January 27) and in Colombo (May 12) this year, Jayalalithaa alleged that Sri Lanka’s stance in these talks was “obdurate.”
She alleged that the “meek and weak” response of the UPA government to the repeated instances of abduction of and attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen in their traditional waters had “emboldened” Sri Lanka to act “brutally” against the fishermen.
Alleging that “an immobile policy paralysis” characterised the approach of the UPA on the issue, she said there was high expectation in Tamil Nadu that the new NDA government at the Centre would act decisively on the issue.
“To put an end to the systematic violence unleashed by the Sri Lankan Navy and to impress upon them that India would not tolerate brutality against our innocent fishermen, I request you to put in place a strong and robust diplomatic response and ensure that such instances do not recur hereafter.”