The death of an Indian fisherman off the Tamil Nadu coast on Wednesday has triggered ripples in the apparently placid diplomatic relationship between India and Sri Lanka.
Even the usually confident President Mahinda Rajapaksa played it safe on Friday. ``According to the navy, there was no such thing (attack on the Indian fishermen). But I have asked them for a full report,’’ Rajapaksa told foreign correspondents over breakfast on Friday.
Rajapaksa, who once held the fisheries portfolio, said it was a humanitarian issue as thousands of fishermen from both countries ``go behind the fish’’ in the narrow waters separating the two countries. ``Our people have also been killed, shot at. There have been clashes between the fishermen. We need a mechanism (to resolve the issue). We have had arrangements earlier but these will have to be revised given the new peaceful situation in Sri Lanka,’’ he said.
On the summoning of Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in India Prasad Kariyawasam by the Indian government, Rajapaksa said that India has the right to do so and even the Sri Lankan government will take similar action in such situations. `We do not have any problem with that,’’ he said.
A senior Sri Lankan navy (SLN) officer present at the interaction said from the information shared by the Indian High Commission, it was clear that the incident had occurred with India’s maritime boundary. ``Our ships were no where near the international maritime boundary line (IMBL). We have a large network of radars monitoring the northern coastline. At the place (off the Jagannathapura coast) and time of the incident (5pm on Wednesday), none of our ships were anywhere close,’’ director of naval operations, Commodore Neil Rosyro, said.
Rosyro said the navies of both countries meet every three-to-four months and the lines of communication between the two navies were always open.
Diplomatic sources in Colombo, however, said that it was `100 per cent’’ certain that the Indian fishing boat with four fishermen on board came under fire from the SLN. ``There was no SLN ship in sight because the incident occurred in Indian waters. Had it occurred in Lankan waters, the (Indian) boat would have been towed away,’’ a diplomat said on condition of anonymity.