India takes up fishermen issue after Lanka threat
March 8, 2015 08:28 am
A day after Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that Indian fishermen may be shot if they “intruded” into his country’s waters, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday raised the matter with the Sri Lankan government and emphasised that it was a “humanitarian” and
“livelihood” issue for the fishermen.
Swaraj raised the matter with Lankan leaders, including Wickremesinghe, whom she met over the past 24 hours, sources told The Sunday Express from Colombo.
“She was frank and asked the Sri Lankan leadership to take a considerate view for the Indian fishermen. She also proposed a meeting between the fishermens’ associations after PM Narendra Modi’s visit,” said a top government source.
The Sri Lankan government has maintained the position that the Indian fishermen have been violating the international maritime boundary and coming to the Lankan waters, and this was not the first time that the Lankan government has raised this issue with the Indian side. New Delhi, however, has always insisted that it is a “livelihood” issue for these fishermen.
In an interview to a Tamil news channel, Wickramesinghe said the Sri Lankan navy is only acting as per law when it fires at Indian fishermen entering Lankan waters. “If someone tries to break into my house, I can shoot. If he gets killed, law allows me to do that,” he told Thanthi TV Friday night.
“This is our waters. Fishermen of Jaffna should be allowed to fish. We stopped them from fishing. That’s why the Indian fishermen came in. They (Jaffna fishermen) are willing to have a deal. Let’s have a reasonable settlement but not at the cost of the livelihood of northern fishermen.”
Wickramasinghe said the shooting of fishermen does not amount to human rights violations. “Why are you coming into our waters? Why are you fishing in our waters? Stay on the Indian side. There will be no issue,” he said.
In Colombo, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said Swaraj raised the topic of fishermen as both sides are trying to address the issue, “which is not an easy one”. She met Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Foreign Minister Mangala Samarweera and Wickramasinghe since Friday night. She also met the Tamil National Alliance.
Akbaruddin said the two sides have agreed to work on “interim solutions” till the issues are addressed. He said there is “willingness to address in peaceful terms, through dialogue” from both sides and it was agreed that the best way is to get those who are “directly involved” in the process.
Swaraj, he said, is in Sri Lanka as a precursor to Modi’s visit next week and that has generated lot of interest. During the talks, he said, there was political consultations on the domestic situation, cooperation on international fora, developmental projects among other issues. (indianexpress