India concerned, hopes Sri Lanka will free arrested fishermen

Thursday, February 17, 2011

NEW DELHI - Conveying its “deep concern” over the detention of 136 Indian fishermen in Jaffna, India Thursday asked the Sri Lankan government to take “necessary” steps to set them free and regretted that some Lankan fishermen had taken the law into their hands.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna spoke to his Sri Lankan counterpart G.L. Peiris and hoped that Colombo would take the necessary steps to release all the arrested Indian fishermen.

“I have just had a telephonic conversation with the minister of external affairs of Sri Lanka (G.L. Peiris) and I have conveyed Indias deep concern at the detention of nearly 136 fishermen in Jaffna district, Krishna told reporters here.

“I have also conveyed my deep regret that Sri Lankan nationals and Sri Lankan fishermen have taken law into their own hands and confronted our fishermen, Krishna said.

Agreeing that there was no justification for fishermen to stray into Sri Lankan waters, Krishna said Sri Lankan fishermen likewise have to be very cautious when they are getting into Indian waters.

“But nevertheless in the light of the bilateral relationship between Sri Lanka and India which has always been cordial, I think it is necessary that all of us must help to defuse the situation. I have suggested the fishermen to be released…, he said.

Alluding to the holiday in Sri Lanka when courts are not functioning Thursday, he said he was “hopeful the Sri Lanka government will take necessary steps to get all 136 fishermen released when the courts reopen Friday.

“I have also suggested to the Sri Lankan external affairs minister that fishermen associations (from both sides) themselves should get in touch with each other so that they can come to some understanding with reference to fishing in international waters, he said.

“We are in touch with the Sri Lankan government. I can assure you that the government will do everything possible to safeguard the interests of fishermen in Tamil Nadu, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said on the sidelines of a function. “We are closely monitoring the developments,” he said.

The fishermen have been nabbed by the Sri Lankan Navy over the last few days for allegedly straying into the island-country’s waters, creating a massive furore in Tamil Nadu.

The detention of Indian fishermen has sparked massive protests in Tamil Nadu where it is an emotive and political issue.

The ruling DMK, a constituent of the United Progressive Alliance government, held a massive protest in Chennai Wednesday. Over 2,000 party workers offered themselves for arrests, seeking the fishermen’s release by Sri Lanka.

Party MPs Kanimozhi and T.K.S. Elangovan were arrested on Wednesday when they tried to take out a rally to Sri Lankan deputy high commission in Chennai.

Speaking to editors of TV channels Wednesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that this sort of behaviour was not acceptable among neighbourly nations.

“We are taking up this matter with the Sri Lankan government. We take a serious view (of what has happened),” the prime minister said.

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