Says India, Sri Lanka have inked pact for early release of genuine fishermen

Inspector General Satya Prakash Sharma, Commander, Coast Guard Region East, said that the arrest of Indian fishermen was a better course of action adopted by the Sri Lankan Navy than harassing and killing them.

Speaking to The Hindu at Mandapam on Wednesday, the Commander said that he had information that 112 fishermen were detained by the Sri Lankan Navy on charges of straying into the island waters. If they wilfully strayed into their waters, arrest was a step in the right direction.

Mr. Sharma said that it was stressed to Sri Lankan authorities a few days ago, when the issue of killing of two Indian fishermen was taken up with them (through diplomatic channels), that if their navy happened to spot wilful incursion by Indian fishermen, they should not resort to firing; they could be arrested. In this case, it appeared that the Sri Lankan Navy had acted accordingly.

He said that the Indian authorities followed the same approach whenever Sri Lankan fishermen were spotted in Indian waters.

Asked about the protest by political parties in Tamil Nadu over the arrest of the fishermen, Mr. Sharma said that the two sides had an agreement for early release of genuine fishermen.

The matter would be taken up with the Sri Lankan government through diplomatic channels as early as possible.

When his attention was drawn to the prevailing “grouse among fishermen and political parties in Tamil Nadu,” that Indian security forces had not taken enough steps to prevent the killing of Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy, the Commander said that there was no such incident in 2010.

As far as the two killings that took place in the current year, circumstantial evidence indicated that uniformed men across the border were responsible for the killings. Mr. Sharma said that Coast Guard, along with Indian Navy, had stepped up patrolling in Palk Bay, the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Strait.