Foreign secy to discuss fishermen issue in Lanka | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Foreign secy to discuss fishermen issue in Lanka

delhi Updated: Jan 28, 2011 22:45 IST
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With the killing of two Indian fishermen allegedly by the Sri Lankan navy spiraling into a major political controversy in the poll-bound Tamil Nadu, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao will leave for Colombo on Sunday.

Rao during her visit will meet among others Sri Lankan foreign minister GL Peiris and senior officials and will be back in New Delhi on Monday evening.

The Foreign Secretary while taking up the issue and conveying that the use of force is unacceptable will also pitch for the convening of the joint working group on fisheries to deal with the issues. The mechanism instituted to deal with the issues of fishermen hasn't met since 2006.

India maintains that the use of force that resulted in two deaths violates the fishing arrangements arrived between two countries in October 2008. DMK chief M Karunanidhi, key ally in the Congress-led UPA government has taken up the issue with the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Meanwhile, there is a new dimension to the issue. In the post-conflict Lanka, many people in and around Jafna are returning to fishing and they vehemently oppose the presence of Indian fishermen in their waters.

What is also perplexing the Indian official is the sudden turn of events. If there were 1464 arrests of Indian fishermen by Lanka in 2008, it came down to 127 in 2009 and further reduced to 34. But, the two killings have vitiated the atmosphere.

It's also worth noting that senior Sri Lankan Navy officers have repeatedly told Hindustan Times that their records show that no SLN ship or patrol boat was near the locations of either of the two incidents.

In between, the cooperation between the navies of the two countries has intensified in the last few years. The Indian navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma visited Sri Lanka twice in the last eight months.

In October, 2010, the then SLN chief Vice-Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe also visited India. For its part, the SLN, through the Lankan ministry of external affairs, has put out a statement where it said that instead of attacking it had on multiple occasions helped Indian fishermen and fishing boats that had strayed into Lankan waters. But as of now, with Rao's impending visit, it's clear that it would require more than statements and denials for the issue to be sorted out.