India summoned the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commissioner in New Delhi Mahishini Colonne today to discuss the arrest of a group of Indian fishermen, Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin told the Colombo Gazette.
The Indian government has urged the Sri Lankan authorities to treat the fishermen humanely and free them as soon as possible.
The navy had arrested 53 Indian fishermen who had entered Sri Lankan waters illegally both yesterday and today.
Navy spokesman Kosala Warnakulasuriya said that the Indians were arrested at two separate locations within hours of the first arrest.
Late last evening the navy arrested 19 Indian fishermen off the seas of Mannar while on this morning another 34 Indians were arrested off the Delft islands.
Warnakulasuriya said that the boats used by the fishermen were also seized and they are to be handed over to the police for further investigations.
Earlier this week sixteen fishermen, arrested by the Sri Lankan navy for fishing in Sri Lankan waters, were released and sent back to India.
Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen often stray into each other’s territory as both countries are divided by a small strip of sea.
Indian Defence Minister AK Antony said in a statement this week that the Indian government has been consistently taking up the issue of Indians crossing into Sri Lankan waters with Sri Lanka to ensure that the Sri Lankan navy acts with restraint and Indian fishermen found near the International Maritime Boundary Line ( IMBL) are treated in a humane manner.
“In order to avoid recurrence of incidents involving our fishermen and keeping in mind the humanitarian and livelihood dimensions of fishermen issues, the government has reached an understanding with the government of Sri Lanka in October, 2008, to put in place practical arrangements to deal with Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL),” he said.
Indian fishermen often accuse the Sri Lankan navy of attacking them when they stray into Sri Lankan waters, an allegation that Sri Lanka denies. (Colombo Gazette)