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“Shooting incidents do not take place in Indian territorial waters”

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taking stock: Vice-Admiral Raman Prem Suthan, Vice-Chief of Naval Staff–designate (right), at the Rameswaram harbour on Wednesday. Commodore Phillip Van Haltren, Naval Officer in-charge, Tamil Nadu, and Commander S. Mukherji, Area Commander, South, are in the picture.
taking stock: Vice-Admiral Raman Prem Suthan, Vice-Chief of Naval Staff–designate (right), at the Rameswaram harbour on Wednesday. Commodore Phillip Van Haltren, Naval Officer in-charge, Tamil Nadu, and Commander S. Mukherji, Area Commander, South, are in the picture.

C. Jaishankar

If our fishermen break rules, they face risk of fire: Vice-Admiral Raman Prem Suthan

RAMESWARAM: “Shooting incidents against Tamil Nadu fishermen have not taken place in Indian territorial waters. They took place well inside the Sri Lankan coast. Hence, the Indian Navy can do little to prevent firing incidents if fishermen continue to poach near Sri Lankan coast,” Vice-Admiral Raman Prem Suthan, Vice-Chief of Naval Staff-designate, said here on Wednesday.

Talking to The Hindu, after undertaking a hovercraft sortie to the International Maritime Boundary Line in Palk Strait, Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar with Commodore Phillip Van Haltren, Naval Officer in-charge, Tamil Nadu, and Commander S. Mukherji, Area Commander, South, Mr. Suthan said: “The Navy is taking all possible steps to safeguard the Indian fishermen in our maritime boundary. We will not allow any of our fishermen to be fired upon in our waters. It is guaranteed. But, beyond our jurisdiction, we cannot do anything unless we have some combined operation. But, that is not there.

“Sri Lankan Navy announced some security zones in their waters to safeguard their assets. They do not even allow their own fishermen in security zones. If our fishermen break the rules and go to areas where fighting takes place, they face the risk of fire. We (Navy) are taking all efforts to discourage them from going. But, the lure of catch tempts them quite naturally. It gives problems in patrolling,” said Mr. Suthan, who is currently the Flag Officer in Command, Eastern Naval Command, Visakhapatnam.

Asked what would be the permanent solution to the 25-year-old problem, he said it could only be solved if fishermen stopped from going to Sri Lankan coast.

On steps taken by the Navy to face the threat posed by Sea Tigers of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and their activities very close to the operating areas of the Indian Navy, Mr. Suthan said: “They are not operating in our maritime boundary. They are operating inside their [Sri Lanka] boundary. They will maintain it. There was an incident in which they [Sea Tigers] sunk a fast attack craft. They [Sea Tigers] are still very active. But, I don’t expect any direct confrontation with us…

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