Today's Paper

Jayalalithaa for joint naval exercises to check LTTE

CHENNAI DEC. 7. The Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, has urged the Indian and Sri Lankan Governments to consider taking up joint naval exercises to eliminate ``unauthorised'' naval operations in the international waters by the Sea Tigers of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, a copy of which was released to the media here today, Ms. Jayalalithaa said the recent abduction of 32 Ramanathapuram fishermen by the LTTE only showed that the organisation was seeking to assume the mantle of legitimacy, claiming to have naval control of the international waters off the coast of Mannar.

``The abduction placed the entire matter in a totally different perspective, involving not only the fragile security of the East Coast of Tamil Nadu but also the security of the Indian nation itself, considering the overtly terrorist stance of the LTTE that has had such an explosive impact on the internal security of India in the recent past.''

`Affront to sovereignty'

She was constrained to observe that such an outrageous incident by a terrorist organisation should not be met with a lukewarm and meek response by the Indian Government, treating it as yet another routine incident of Indian fishermen allegedly crossing the international boundary line during the course of their daily fishing activity. The incident was an affront to the country's sovereignty, she said.

Given the serious national security concerns (both external and internal), which an incident of this kind involved, the Government of India should make a clear statement to the LTTE that it should not provoke India by such ``renegade acts of illegal capture of innocent fishermen.''

It would even be appropriate for the Indian Government to take up with the island Government the question of embarking upon joint exercises to eliminate such unauthorised naval operations in the international waters by the Sea Tigers.

``The Indian Ocean, in which Indian fishermen have traditionally eked out their livelihood, should not become the breeding ground of naval forces of terrorist groups, which kidnap innocent fishermen and hold them to ransom.''

The Chief Minister wanted the Prime Minister to give serious thought to her views in the context of internal and external security, which must be the only consideration of the country's policy. The Indian Government must make a clear statement that it would not in any way tolerate future incidents of this kind.

The Chief Minister had written a letter to the Prime Minister immediately after the Sri Lankan Navy arrested the Indian fishermen.

In that letter, the Chief Minister stressed the need to arrive at a long-term solution to the issue, even while urging him to take up the issue through diplomatic channels to secure the release of the fishermen and their boats.

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