India - Sri Lanka relations at a decisive stage over fishing issue

The following report signals that the conflict between Sri Lanka and India over the fishing activities in the Palk Straits have reached to a decisive point.

Reacting strongly to incidents of Indian fishermen being detained by Sri Lankan Navy, India today said a senior official of the External Affairs Ministry will soon visit the island nation to resolve the issues as such acts ''cannot go on''.

"I think this cannot go on like this. I think we will have to come to some firm understanding with the government of Sri Lanka," Krishna told mediapersons here.

His comments came after reports that Sri Lankan Navy detained 14 fishermen from Tamil Nadu for allegedly fishing in their waters earlier in the day. They, however, freed the fishermen hours later on sighting an Indian Navy vessel near the International Maritime Boundary Line.

Krishna said he will be deputing an MEA Joint Secretary to go to Sri Lanka and "prepare some kind of a ground so that such unpleasant incidents do not frequently occur." Krishna noted that international water is a "tricky issue" and that fishermen don't recognise international maritime boundaries.

In today's incident, the fishermen were taken into custody when they were near the third sand dune between Katchatheevu, an islet ceded by India to Sri Lanka, and Arichalmunai in the sea off Rameswaram, where another group of 13 fishermen were detained by the island navy and released recently.

Fishery department officials, quoting four released fishermen, said the armed Sri Lankan Navymen came in two boats and asked the 18 fishermen to surrender. They took 14 fishermen into custody and towed one boat away with them while releasing four fishermen and another boat. The 14 fishermen were handed over to Indian Navy who would bring them back.

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