India has taken up fishermen issue with Colombo ‘very strongly’

Salman Khurshid says India has taken up “very strongly” the issue of its fishermen in Sri Lankan custody

India has taken up “very strongly” the issue of its fishermen in Sri Lankan custody, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid told parliament Thursday.

Replying to a calling attention motion on the issue in the Rajya Sabha, the minister said that during his meeting with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris on Aug 19, he had taken up “very strongly” for early release of the fishermen. 

Khurshid also said that the Indian government takes up with the Sri Lankan government matters pertaining to firing at or apprehending of fishermen immediately after they occur to ensure that their navy “acts with restraint and our fishermen are treated in a humane and pragmatic manner”.

National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon also raised the matter during his visit to Colombo July 8-9 this year, he said.

The Sri Lankan High Commissioner was issued a demarche Aug 7 for the early release of Indian fishermen, he said. 

Khurshid said the need has been felt for “creating greater awareness among Indian fishermen to avoid crossing over into Sri Lankan waters for their own safety and security”.

Towards this, the government has been working with state governments “on the need to sensitize Indian fishermen to respect the International Maritime Boundary Line and also requested the Tamil Nadu government to finalise dates for a proposed meeting between representatives of fishermen’s associations from both countries”.

The motion was raised by V. Maitreyan of the AIADMK and D. Raja of the Communist Party of India.

However, Khurshid’s answer did not satisfy the opposition. Maitreyan alleged that the prime minister had not replied to the letters written by his party chief, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa on the issue.

He demanded that the island of Kachchativu – which India has ceded to Sri Lanka in a 1974 agreement – should be “retrieved”. D. Raja also demanded “renegotiation” of the agreement. 

Bharatiya Janata Party’s Prakash Javdekar said the central government should intervene to end the attacks.

Vasanthi Stanley of the DMK wanted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to not attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo in November.


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