Minister asks TN govt. to finalise dates for meeting of fishermen

While maintaining that India was yet to decide its level of participation at the CHOGM in Sri Lanka in November, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid hoped Colombo would reciprocate Delhi’s gesture and release the arrested fishermen immediately.

Replying to a question of CPI leader D.Raja, the External Affairs Minister acknowledged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh receiving letters from Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and Puducherry Chief Minister N.Rangaswamy urging him not to attend the CHOGM in Colombo.

Mr. Khurshid, however, maintained that the government had not decided on the level of its participation at the 2013 CHOGM. He said the Prime Minister had responded to her letter twice this year while addressing the issue of fishermen sponsored through a separate calling attention motion.

Replying to supplementaries, Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur said a well thought out decision keeping the national interest, foreign policy and international commitments would be taken in due course of time about attending the CHOGM.

Referring to the demand for a change in the venue, Ms. Kaur said no proposal has come from any head of government seeking a change in the venue of the summit, but added that India had engaged Sri Lanka on the issue of human rights violation.

Mr. Khurshid said India was committed to the 13th Amendment of Sri Lanka Constitution for devolution of powers and equal rights to Tamils.

Later in response to the calling attention motion of Mr. Maitreyan and Mr. Raja, the External Affairs Minister said he had strongly taken up at with his Sri Lanka counterpart on Monday the expeditious release of fishermen. He also pointed out that the Sri Lanka High Commissioner was issued a demarche on August 7 in this regard.

As regards the comments by Sri Lanka External Affairs Minister G.L.Peiris, Mr. Khurshid said they were not really positive, adding that the former was perhaps sharing his views freely.

He said Mr. Peiris should consult his attorney general and find a solution.

Mr. Khurshid said incidents of attack had come down and attributed the recent spurt to elections in the northern provinces keeping the vote bank in mind.

Stressing that no Sri Lanka fisherman was in Indian custody, Mr. Khurshid questioned the new process adopted by the island nation asking Indian fishermen to face a magistrate and seek bail and file bonds pleading guilty.

‘False charge’

As regards the five fishermen who have been languishing in the jail there for over 18 months with their bail pleas turned down as many as 24 times, Mr. Khurshid said the accusation against them that they were involved in narcotics trade was not correct.

The Indian investigation in this regard has been conveyed to Sri Lanka with the request to the government there to consult its attorney general and find a humanitarian solution.

He said a solution could be drawn up by a meeting of fishermen from the two sides and requested the Tamil Nadu government to finalise the dates for the proposed meeting at the earliest.

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