Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa on Monday said the Centre’s “inadequate response” to apprehension and detention of Indian fishermen “has emboldened the Sri Lankan Navy to harass” them, and sought a “robust diplomatic response” on the issue.
“Inadequate response of the Union Government on such incidents of apprehension and detention of our fishermen has emboldened the Sri Lankan Navy to harass the Tamil Nadu fishermen while exercising their livelihood rights to fish in their traditional waters of the Palk Bay,” she said.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she took up the latest instance of the arrest of 28 Indian fishermen from the state and reminded him that she had been repeatedly writing to him to ensure that such incidents did not recur.
The prolonged detention and disuse of boats under Lankan custody and the onslaught of the severe monsoon had caused irreparable damage to them, she said and reiterated that they should be restored in a refurbished condition to the fishermen at the earliest.
Jayalalithaa said that continued apprehension and detention of Indian fishermen by the Lankan Navy “is causing a deep sense of frustration and anger among the fishermen community in Tamil Nadu.
“She also pointed out that the permanent solution to this “vexatious problem” was the retrieval of Katchatheevu, an islet ceded to Sri Lanka by India, recalling her petition in Supreme Court questioning the validity of the 1974 and 1976 agreements between the two countries in this regard.
“I hope that there will now be a decisive shift in the stance of the Government of India towards handling this question under your leadership. The Government of India should now find a lasting and permanent solution to this long pending and highly emotive issue which also carries grave security implications for our state,” she said.
“I request you to put in place a strong and robust diplomatic response registering India’s disapproval in the strongest possible terms of the belligerent actions of the Sri Lankan Navy,” she said.
Jayalalithaa urged Modi to direct officials of the Ministry of External Affairs to take concrete action through diplomatic channels to secure the immediate release of a total of 96 fishermen and 82 fishing boats from Sri Lanka.