Sri Lankan Prime Minsiter Ranil Wickramasinghe has stoked a controversy suggesting that Indian fishermen may be shot if they intruded into Sri Lankan waters.
Alleging that Indian fishermen were taking away the livelihood of northern Lanka fishermen, he told tamil Thanthi TV on Friday that, "If someone tries to break into my house, I can shoot. If he gets killed...law allows me to do that."
The Sri Lankan prime minister said that his government was willing to make a 'reasonable deal' with India with respect to the fishing rights, adding that the law creates provisions for a man to 'shoot' an intruder in his home.
Wickramasinghe's comments came even as India's external affairs minsiter Sushma Swaraj is in Colombo on a two-day trip to prepare the agenda for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the island-nation next week.
Prime Minister Modi is expected to arrive in Sri Lanka on a two-day visit on March 13 and 14, the first bilateral tour by an Indian premier in over 25 years.
Wickramasinghe is further reported to have said, "if you want us to show magnanimity to your fishermen...India should show same magnanimity to (Jailed )Italian sailors."
Meanwhile, India will strongly take up with Sri Lanka the fishermen issue during delegation-level talks between the two countries, officials said on Saturday.
"This is an ongoing dialogue between India & Sri Lanka, external affairs minister will certainly take up this matter today both with her Sri Lankan counterpart & with Sri Lankan PM", ministry of external affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said.
We hope to resolve this in a peaceful and friendly manner, he said ahead of Sushma Swaraj's talks in Colombo with the Lankan leadership.
"India and Sri Lanka have been approaching this as a humanitarian matter which is an emotional issue. This is not an issue that can be addressed immediately with quick-fix solutions but we will work on it as friends and maritime neighbours," he added.
Swaraj called on Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Friday, who assured her that his government is committed to strengthening ties with India.
Several Tamil leaders have also expressed concern on Sri Lankan prime minister's comments about Indian fishermen.
According to ANI, DMK leader Kanimozhi said, "what we are looking for is peaceful coexistence and that their rights are given back to them".
Her partyman TKS Elangovan has demanded that prime minsiter Modi must discuss the matter. He said, "PM Modi must discuss this matter & see to it that such harsh comments are not made."
Condemning Wickramasinghe's comment, AK Padmanabhan of CPM called the Sri Lankan PM's statement "shocking and unfortunate".
There have been several cases of arrest and abduction of Indian fishermen in the last month.
Sri Lankan fishermen have been complaining that since the advent of new government, the number of Indian fishermen breaching the country's waters for illegal fishing has been increasing.
As many as 86 Indian fishermen were arrested and their 10 fishing boats seized by the Sri Lanka navy for allegedly poaching in the country's waters last month.