Inspector General Satya Prakash Sharma, Commander, India’s Coast Guard Region East, said that the arrest of Indian fishermen was a better course of action adopted by the Sri Lankan Navy.
Speaking to The Hindu, the Commander said that he had information that 112 fishermen were detained by the Sri Lankan Navy on charges of straying into the island waters. If they willfully strayed into their waters, arrest was a step in the right direction, he said.
(Note by Editor: The Sri Lanka Navy denies any involvement in the arrest of these fishermen. They were apprehended by Sri Lankan fishermen and handed over to the police.)
Mr. Sharma said that it was stressed to Sri Lankan authorities a few days ago, when the issue of alleged killing of two Indian fishermen was taken up with them (through diplomatic channels), that if their navy happened to spot willful incursion by Indian fishermen, they should not resort to firing; they could be arrested. In this case, it appeared that the Sri Lankan Navy had acted accordingly, he added.
He said that the Indian authorities followed the same approach whenever Sri Lankan fishermen were spotted in Indian waters.
Asked about the protest by political parties in Tamil Nadu over the arrest of the fishermen, Mr. Sharma said that the two sides had an agreement for early release of genuine fishermen, The Hindu reported.
The matter would be taken up with the Sri Lankan government through diplomatic channels as early as possible.
When his attention was drawn to the prevailing “grouse among fishermen and political parties in Tamil Nadu,” that Indian security forces had not taken enough steps to prevent the alleged killing of Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy, the Commander said that there was no such incident in 2010.
Meanwhile, an Op Ed by R. K. Radhakrishnan on The Hindu today (18), said Sri Lanka cannot sit back and watch when there are routine transgressions of the International Maritime Border Line. ‘There certainly cannot be a case made out for Indians to be allowed to fish in the Sri Lankan waters, let alone near the Sri Lankan coastline — however rich in fishery resources these may happen to be. Also, for Mr. Rajapaksa, domestic political compulsions do not allow for any leeway being given to India on this issue at a time when the local body polls are nearing’.
He pointed out Sri Lanka’s argument that fishermen are always territorial and have traditionally not allowed to ‘outsiders’ to fish within what they consider their waters and there were reports that Sri Lankan Tamil fishermen were ‘arresting’ Indian fishermen off the coast.
He adds: ‘the fact that the Sri Lankan Tamil fishermen “arrested” their counterparts from Tamil Nadu is conveniently missing from the rhetoric of most politicians: they blame the heavy-handed “Sinhala” state for the atrocities’.
For Sri Lanka, the Bilateral October 2008 agreement on fishing arrangements which India still holds on to, is part of another era, and it wants to rework it substantially, he said.
‘In 2008 it had made political sense for Sri Lanka to sign that agreement; and it makes political sense now to demand its revision in tune with the ground realities post-May 2009, after the military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’.