Sri Lankan Navy has arrested 25 Indian fishermen and seized six trawlers for allegedly poaching on waters of that country.
The arrests come ahead of talks on January 27 between the two countries to work out modalities to ensure that fishermen arrested by either side for crossing maritime boundary could be released on a time-bound basis.
The arrests could even derail the scheduled talks, reports said on Wednesday.
The issue of fishermen from both countries crossing each other’s boundaries while fishing is contentious. Both accuse one another of high-handedness in dealing with the fishermen who commit the indiscretion.
Between Tamil Nadu, which is at the southern tip of India, and Sri Lanka is a swathe of ocean called the Palk Straits, just 53 km to 80 km wide, separating the two countries.
The arrested Indian fishermen are from Rameswaram and Mandapam, coastal towns on the southernmost tip of Tamil Nadu, closest to Sri Lanka. They were reportedly taken into custody at Kankesanthurai, a harbour town near Jaffna, the north-east Tamil-populated town of Sri Lanka.
Last week, Indian federal agriculture minister Sharad Pawar had a meeting with Sri Lankan minister of fisheries and aquatic resources Rajitha Senaratne in the Indian capital New Delhi on the issue. The two countries decided to release 400 fishermen, currently in custody of each other, reports said.
So far, the two countries have reportedly released 52 fishermen each.
There are still 240 Indians in Sri Lankan custody for allegedly poaching in Lankan waters, while 160 Sri Lankans are held by India, according to official figures quoted by agencies.