Ten fishermen from Tamil Nadu were on Tuesday arrested by the Sri Lankan navy with the state government alleging that the “Lankan Navy has little regard for the diplomatic efforts” being undertaken on the issue. The fishermen were arrested on charges of crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) when they were fishing near Katchatheevu. One fishing boat was also seized by the Lankan navy.
Chief Minister K Palaniswami said the incident came “close on the heels” of Lankan navy personnel allegedly killing an Indian fisherman on March 6. “Although shortly after the shooting incident, 85 Indian fishermen were released by the Sri Lankan Navy, the apprehensions made again today indicate that the Sri Lankan Navy has little regard for the diplomatic efforts being undertaken to solve the vexatious issue,” he added.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Palaniswami reiterated the need for mutually acceptable fishing arrangements between India and Sri Lanka. Tamil Nadu has pointed out various examples where countries sharing “narrow waters between them” have worked out mutually acceptable agreements on fishing through bilateral diplomatic efforts, the chief minister said.
“The continuous arrests and apprehensions by the Sri Lankan Navy, however, seem to be an attempt only to prevent any such diplomatic solution to the issue,” he said and called for effective action from New Delhi to curb the “repeated apprehensions and harassment” of the fishermen by Sri Lanka.
Further, a total of 129 fishing boats impounded by the Lankan navy were “precariously berthed” there, Palaniswami pointed out and sought the release of the boats in a “refurbished, sea-worthy condition”.
“A decisive shift in the manner in which this sensitive issue is being dealt with is long awaited and is the need of the hour,” he wrote in the letter to the Prime Minister.
The Chief Minister sought Modi’s direction to External Affairs Ministry officials for concrete action through diplomatic channels to secure the immediate release of the 10 fishermen and 129 boats. He also reiterated Tamil Nadu’s demand of a Rs-1,650 crore package for deep-sea fishing from the Centre.
Meanwhile, a delegation of Tamil Nadu fishermen demanded that India initiated legal proceedings against Sri Lanka in connection with the killing of one of their colleagues, Bridgo, on March 6, during a meeting with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
Meanwhile in Colombo, Sri Lankan Navy spokesperson said that “the arrested fishermen and their trawler were brought to the Naval Base.” They were to be handed over to the Jaffna Assistant Director of Fisheries for onward legal action, the spokesperson said.