Defence Minister A.K. Antony has said that steps will be taken to further improve the safety of the country's coastline and territorial waters so that fishermen feel safe when they go out to sea.

He was talking to presspersons here on Sunday evening after expressing his condolences to the family members of Valentine who was killed at sea on February 15 when Italian marines aboard the tanker Enrica Lexie opened fire.

Mr. Antony spent 15 minutes with Valentine's wife and two sons.

He said that in the changing international scenario, more vigil should be kept in coastal areas. The Indian Navy and the Coast Guard would be better equipped to meet such challenges.

In spite of a coordinated effort by 18 countries, including India, the threat from Somali pirates to maritime security seemed to be on the increase. Following tight vigil in the Gulf of Aden, the pirates were venturing into distant waters for operations and had even come up to Lakshadweep sometime ago, he said.

Role of fishermen

Steps had been taken to provide more security in the country's territorial waters. The State governments should further strengthen their coastal police stations, Mr. Antony said. Fishermen of the country also played a big role in protecting the coasts, and they had proved it several times in the recent past by alerting the country's security forces.

Centre's support

The Minister said the investigation into the killing of the two fishermen by the Italian marines was proceeding in the right direction.

The incident had occurred within the country's territorial waters. The Union government would extend all support to the State government on the issue, he said.

Mr. Antony said there would be no deviation from the government stand that the two Italian marines arrested in the case would have to be prosecuted under Indian law.

Indian courts to decide

The case would be decided by Indian courts. A decision would be taken on what should be the Central relief to the dependents of those killed in the incident, he said.

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