To the utter dismay of the Sri Lankan government, India did not respond to its demand for clarifications on Defence Minister AK Antony's statement in parliament holding the Sri Lankan Navy responsible for the death of 77 Indian fishermen between 1991 and mid 2007.
Since there was no response from New Delhi within the stipulated 48 hours, Sri Lanka on Saturday went public on its version of the events.
A statement from the Foreign Ministry said that every time there was a report of an incident in the sea involving Indian fishermen, the Navy would inquire if any naval vessel had been deployed in the area and if any ammunition was used. "The outcomes of all inquiries have established absolutely no involvement by the Sri Lankan Navy," the statement said. The Indian High Commission in Colombo had been kept informed every time, it added. 5,000 India boats intrude per month
While the Sri Lankan Navy had scrupulously avoided killing, there had been, over the years, heavy incursions by Indian fishing vessels into Sri Lankan waters, the statement pointed out.
"The monthly observations of crossings of the IMBL (International Maritime Boundary Line) by Indian fishing vessels amount to not less than 5,000. The LTTE uses the cover of the presence of these fishing vessels for their illicit activities, including launching attacks on naval and coastal units of the Sri Lanka Security Forces," the statement said.
In response to Antony's advice that the Sri Lankan Navy should approach the incursions from a humanitarian angle, the statement said that despite "grave constraints" the Sri Lankan Navy applied, and would continue to apply, an "absolutely humanitarian stance" vis-à-vis Indian fishermen.