July 25, New Delhi: The Indian government has been consistently taking up on the reports of alleged attacks on Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan waters with the Sri Lankan government, the Defense Minister of India Arun Jaitley said Friday.
Indian government is taking up such issues with the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure that the island nation's Navy acts with restraint and Indian fishermen found in the country's territorial waters are treated in a humane manner, Jaitley told the Lok Sabha in a written reply.
He added that as a result of Government's efforts that no cases of deaths of Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan waters have been reported since April 2011.
The Defense Minister reminded the Lok Sabha that the Indian government, while keeping in mind the humanitarian and livelihood dimensions of fishermen issues, has reached an understanding with the Sri Lankan government in October, 2008 to put in place practical arrangements to deal with bona fide Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) and avoid recurrence of incidents involving Indian fishermen.
The two countries have 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.
Jaitley told the assembly that the Government, as a result of its continuous efforts, has secured the release of all 676 Indian fishermen arrested in 2013 and 536 Indian fishermen (out of 541 arrested till 18.07.2014) from the custody of Sri Lanka.
He further said that an India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group (JWG) has been established since 2004to deal with issues relating to straying fishermen; work out modalities for prevention of use of force against them, the early release of confiscated boats and to explore possibilities of working towards a bilateral agreement for licensed fishing.
Additionally, two rounds of India-Sri Lanka Fishermen's Associations talks have taken place in Chennai in January 2014 and in Colombo in May towards resolution of the issue.
The Defense Minister said the Indian Coast Guard provides assistance to Indian fishermen at sea while they are in distress through regular patrolling and also conducts Community Interaction Programs to educate fishermen among other issues, on the perils of cross border fishing.
Under operation 'Tasha', Indian Navy and Coast Guard ships are deployed continuously in Palk Bay to prevent any illegal activities and also to protect the Indian fisherman from any attacks, while they are fishing in Indian waters, the Defense Minister informed the Lok Sabha.