Mar 12, Colombo: Contradicting the claims by Tamil Nadu fishermen that Sri Lankan security forces killed hundreds of Indian fishermen, The Indian Defense Minister AK Antony said that during the last one year, there is no official record of Indian fishermen killed in Sri Lankan territorial waters.
In a written statement to the Indian Parliament yesterday, the Indian Defense Minister said Sri Lankan Navy during the last one year had apprehended 23 boats and 131 Indian fishermen.
The apprehended fishermen have been repatriated, following the action taken by the Indian government through diplomatic channels with the Sri Lankan authorities.
Indian fishermen, mainly from Tamil Nadu, illegally poaching in large scale with trawlers in Sri Lanka's waters, have become a serious threat to the livelihoods of Sri Lankan fishermen, who have urged the authorities to prevent the stealing of their livelihood by Indian fishermen.
Antony explained that Indian government has been consistently taking up the issue of alleged attacks on Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy with the Sri Lankan government to ensure that the Sri Lankan Navy acts with restraint and the Indian fishermen found near International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) are treated in a humane manner.
According to the Indian Minister, in order to avoid recurring incidents, the two governments have reached an understanding in October, 2008 to put in place practical arrangements to deal with bona fide Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen crossing the IMBL.
As part of these arrangements, it has been agreed that there would be no firing on Indian fishing vessels and that Indian fishing vessels would not enter the sensitive areas designated by the Sri Lankan government along its coastline.
The Indian Defense Minister told Lok Sabha in his statement that the Indian Coast Guard conducts Community Interaction Programmes to educate fishermen on the perils of cross border fishing and Indian Navy and Coast Guard ships are deployed continuously (24x7) in Palk Bay area to prevent any illegal activities and also to protect the Indian fishermen from any attacks, while they are fishing in Indian waters.
During the 8th India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission meeting held on 22nd January, 2013 in New Delhi, both sides reiterated the highest priority accorded by respective governments to the wellbeing, safety and security of fishermen from the two countries, he noted.
Sri Lanka Navy says its vessels and craft are in deployment for interception of unlawful intrusions into the Sri Lanka's territorial waters and it apprehends the poachers in order to prevent exploitation of the country's fishing resources and harms inflicted on its marine life.