New Delhi, Aug 11 (Calcutta Tube) Stating that attacks on Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy has dropped, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said Wednesday he would take up the issue when he visits Colombo soon.
‘Recently we have had an incident in which a fisherman was reportedly killed. However, there has been a significant decrease in the incidents after 2008,’ Krishna said following a calling attention motion by AIADMK member V. Matireyan.
‘Soon I am going to Sri Lanka to strengthen bilateral ties. (This issue) will be taken up with the Sri Lankan government,’ he said in the Rajya Sabha. ‘Any discussion with Sri Lanka is never complete without taking up the issue of (Indian) fishermen.’
The minister, however, said that Indian fisherman needed to be sensitized vis-a-vis the maritime boundary.
‘Most such incidents take place in Sri Lankan waters, it is therefore important we sensitize our fishermen to respect the international maritime boundary,’ Krishna said.
‘Fishermen are not literate, so they do not understand anything beyond fishing,’ he said, indicating that fishermen stray into Sri Lankan waters without realizing it.
He said the number of fishermen apprehended by the Sri Lankan navy had come down from 1,456 in 2008 to 127 in 2009, the year the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka ended following the crushing defeat of the Tamil Tigers, and further to 26 till July 2010.
‘In 2008, five fishermen were reported killed and one was missing. In 2009, no fisherman was reported missing or killed,’ Krishna said.
Congress and DMK members attacked Matireyan for politicising the issue. The heated exchanges led to brief adjournment.
Some members urged the government to renegotiate the ownership of Kachchatheevu island, which India ceded to Sri Lanka under a 1984 accord.
The minister said the island cannot be reclaimed. ‘Kachchatheevu is a settled matter. India cannot unilaterally reopen the treaty.’
Under the agreement between the two countries, Indian fishermen can rest on the island, dry their nets and go their for participating in the annual festival held on the island but they cannot fish around the island.
Members alleged that the Sri Lankan Navy also harassed Indian fishmermen in Indian waters.
DMK’s M.K. Kanimozhi suggested usage of satellite imageries to ascertain where the attacks on Indian fishermen was taking place.
The minister rejected the suggestion by some members to take up the issue at SAARC forum.