Foreign Secretary visiting Colombo tomorrow
Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao will visit Colombo on Sunday to discuss the killing of an Indian fisherman allegedly by Sri Lankan security forces.
Terming the killing a human rights violation and tragic, official sources, however, said this was not an “open and shut” case of innocent Indian fishermen being targeted by the security forces of another country. At the same time, “the incident needs to be investigated. We don't know what happened that night.”
Sri Lanka has promised to probe the killing but maintains that its forces were not involved in the incident. “The fact is that we checked and found the incident happened in their waters. If it is not the Sri Lankan Navy then who is it? They have to tell us,” the sources said.
Ms. Rao will hold meetings on Monday to precisely find out who shot at the fisherman, who, both sides acknowledge, was in Sri Lankan waters.
New Delhi believes it can't afford such killings to take place, especially because violent incidents involving Indian fishermen have repercussions in Tamil Nadu.
The sources said Sri Lankan Tamil fishermen have been protesting against incursions by Indian Tamil fishermen. Rendered dormant by the civil war, fishermen from Jaffna and Mannar were taking to their boats again and were not too pleased over encroachment on their turf by Indians.
“The strong lobby of fishermen from Jaffna and Mannar is demanding that Indians should not be allowed to fish in their waters and the Sri Lankan government should take steps. This is not an open and shut situation,” they said.
Asked about the options before South Block, the sources felt this kind of tension was bound to be there in a post-conflict situation and there was no magic wand to make the problems disappear. “We have to engage Sri Lanka. Obviously we need to talk to the leadership in Sri Lanka. The Joint Working Group on Fishing should also meet.”
The sources said the solution would be for both sides to first ask fishermen found in another country's territorial waters to go back. “And if they don't agree to do so, to arrest them and return them to their government with their fishing boats. What else can you do? Do you send in the Navy?”