There are no Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan custody and the New Delhi is engaged with Colombo to ensure that fisherfolk pursue their livelihood in a safe, secure and sustainable manner.

External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna said this in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.

“Presently, there are no Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan custody on fisheries related charges. However, some Indian nationals have been arrested in the Sri Lankan waters on charges of smuggling narcotics and contrabands,” he said.

Officials from Indian High Commission in Colombo and Consulate in Jaffna were in touch with those detained and extending all assistance to them.

“As soon as reports of detention of Indian fishermen are received, the government, through diplomatic channels, takes up the matter of their expeditious release and repatriation with the Sri Lankan authorities. As a result, the fishermen apprehended by the Sri Lankan Navy have been released and repatriated expeditiously.”

Keeping in mind that the issues concerning fishermen affected both countries, the Centre was working with the State governments concerned on sensitising Indian fishermen to respect the International Maritime Boundary Line. The State governments have been requested to finalise dates for a meeting of the representatives of fishermen associations from both countries, Mr. Krishna said.

Amid uproar in the House on the quota Bill and coal blocks allocation, the Minister tabled his statement in response to a calling attention motion on situation arising from repeated attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy.

Referring to an understanding reached with Sri Lanka on October 26, 2008 on how to deal with bona fide fishermen crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line, Mr. Krishna said: “the incidents of attack and detention of bona fide Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan authorities have significantly come down.’’

It was agreed on October 26, 2008 that there would be no firing on Indian fishing vessels and Indian fishing vessels would not tread into sensitive areas designated by the Sri Lanka government along its coastline.

The government and the Indian High Commission consistently took up issues relating to firing on or detention of Indian fishermen with the Sri Lankan government so that its navy acted with restraint and the fishermen were treated humanely.

During his January visit to Sri Lanka, Mr. Krishna took up the issue of the safety and security of Indian fishermen with the Sri Lankan authorities.

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