Sri Lanka on Thursday promised a serious investigation into the killing of an Indian fisherman, allegedly by its navy.

Sri Lankan High Commissioner Prasad Kariyawasam came out with the promise after a meeting with Joint Secretary (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar) in the Ministry of External Affairs T.S. Tirumurti here.

Earlier in the day, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, in a letter, urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take up the killing of the fisherman with the Sri Lankan government. The fisherman was killed when the Sri Lankan Navy allegedly opened fire on his boat off the Pudukottai coast. In Colombo, Indian High Commissioner Ashok K Kantha called on Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris to express India's concern over the killing.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna has sought a detailed report from the Indian High Commissioner on the incident, which comes against the backdrop of a decrease in incidents of detention of and violence against Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy.

The External Affairs Ministry expressed deep concern and regret at the incident. In a statement, it emphasised that resorting to firing in these situations had “no justification,” and called on the Sri Lankan authorities to “desist from use of force.”

“The welfare and the safety of our fishermen in the waters between India and Sri Lanka have received very high priority by the government. We have consistently emphasised to the Sri Lankan government to refrain from firing on our fishermen and scrupulously adhere to the October 2008 understanding reached between the two governments. We call on the Sri Lankan Navy to exercise maximum restraint and avoid use of force in such situations,” the statement said.

The Sri Lankan High Commissioner said that according to information he had, Sri Lankan naval vessels were not in that particular area where the shooting occurred.

Sources in the government here emphasised that issues facing Indian fisherman were always high on the agenda during India-Sri Lanka bilateral meetings. New Delhi consistently asked Colombo to ensure adherence to the October 2008 arrangement on fishing. Since then, they said, incidents of Indian fishermen detained by the Sri Lankan maritime forces had fallen. From 1,456 fishermen detained in 2008, the figure fell to 127 in 2009. It was about 30 last year.

“It is unfortunate that this incident has taken place. But there is a sense of understanding on the part of the Sri Lankans. It is after all a humane matter and concerns the livelihood of fishermen. We have been trying to work out as practical an arrangement as is possible,” the sources said.

Fishermen from both sides have also taken the initiative by meeting and trying to sort out problems through direct interaction.

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