Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to ensure that Indian fishermen did not breach the maritime boundary between the two countries.
Responding to Indian concerns that Indian fishermen were facing attacks from the Sri Lankan Navy, Rajapaksa told Manmohan Singh that it was his country's policy to treat all arrested fishermen humanely.
At the same time, he said the Indian authorities should discourage Indian fishermen from crossing the international line of demarcation, saying their presence was used by the Tamil Tigers for its activities against the Sri Lankan state.
Rajapaksa's comments, according to a presidential communiqué, followed growing concern in Tamil Nadu that the Sri Lankan Navy was attacking and even killing fishermen from the state.
Tamil Nadu is already witnessing anti-Colombo protests in the wake of killings of Indian fishermen in the sea, allegedly by Sri Lankan security forces.
On his way to Colombo, where a two-day South Asia summit opens Saturday, National Security Advisor MK Narayanan on Thursday met Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi and discussed the issue.
Sections of the fishing community in Tamil Nadu, however, admit that they do fish in Sri Lankan waters but say that is because they do not net a good catch in Indian waters.
The Manmohan Singh-Rajapaksa meeting was the first official engagement for the Indian leader after his arrival in Colombo. Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon made a brief mention of it at his media briefing, saying the fishermen's issue came up for discussion.
The president also told the Indian leader that Sri Lankan security forces were exercising “utmost caution” so as to protect civilians while fighting the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Rajapaksa also pledged to comprehensively implement the 1987 India-backed 13th amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution that sought to devolve more powers to provincial councils.
The two leaders also discussed economic and other issues affecting their bilateral relations.