India, Sri Lanka trying to solve issue of trespassing fishermen

April 4th, 2009 - 5:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, April 4 (IANS) While the Sri Lankan Tamils’ issue continues to be a hot topic in Tamil Nadu ahead of the parliamentary polls, efforts are on by authorities in the island nation and in India to solve the problem of fishermen trespassing into each other’s territorial waters, sources said Saturday.
Sri Lankan diplomatic sources indicated that 23 Indian Tamil fishermen who are being held in a prison in the island may be released very soon following representations by the Tamil Nadu government to free them quickly.

“We have asked our government to expedite the release of Indian fishermen as quickly as possible, respecting the wishes of the government here. If they are found completely innocent, they would reach home very soon,” a Sri Lankan diplomatic source told IANS.

“Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen trespassing into each others’ waters are common occurrences. Since both the nations are affected by terrorism, security measures taken by sovereign governments may occasionally hinder civilians’ lives. We understand India’s compulsions and hope it is reciprocated,” the source said.

the Indian fishermen were reportedly caught Thursday near Sri Lanka’s ‘zero traffic high security zone’.

“Over 190 Sri Lankan fishermen are presently in Indian jails from Tuticorin to Andhra Pradesh to the Andaman archipelago. This has been going on for ages as either side likes fish available in each other’s waters,” the source pointed out.

He added: “The heightened security alerts have result in the detention of fishermen on either side of the Palk Strait by defence forces who obviously will not take chances after what has happened in Mumbai (26/11 attack). Our respective navies are always on alert near the coast.”

A state government statement Friday said that the matter had been raised at the state and central government level as well as in Colombo.

“Efforts are underway to get cases against Rameshwaram fishermen withdrawn in Sri Lanka by Monday,” the release said.

Meanwhile, opposition parties here continued to allege that the Sri Lankan navy was “kidnapping Indian fishermen close to Rameshwaram shores”. The charges, backed by statements from relatives of the detained people, are being played up in the local media.

The demand of a separate homeland for Sri Lanka’s ethnic minority put forth by the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and calls to re-annex the Kachchatheevu atoll located in the narrow expanse of sea between India and Sri Lanka that was ceded to the island in 1974 have found support on either side of Tamil Nadu’s political divide.

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