Central & South Asia

Sri Lanka arrests scores of Indian fishermen

Sri Lankan navy seizes 73 fishermen for "illegal poaching" as Tamil Nadu chief minister condemns "belligerent actions".

Last updated: 08 Jun 2014 17:18
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Attempts by fishing communities in India and Sri Lanka to resolve the problem have ended in failure [File - EPA]

Sri Lanka's navy has said it has arrested 73 Indian fishermen for illegal poaching in its waters amid heightened tensions between the neighbouring countries over the long-standing issue.

The navy said on Sunday that it seized 16 Indian trawlers with 73 fishermen on board for poaching in Sri Lankan waters over the weekend.

"The arrested fishermen were handed over to officials of the department of fisheries ... for further action," the navy said in a statement.

Last week, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse ordered the release of 29 Indians who were arrested off the island's northern waters on charges of poaching in a move to ease tensions over the issue.

Rajapakse raised the problem of illegal fishing during talks last month with new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi after his swearing-in ceremony in New Delhi, the AFP news agency reported.

Sri Lankan fishermen struggle to make a living

The south Indian state of Tamil Nadu has repeatedly accused Sri Lanka's navy of harassing their fishermen and urged New Delhi to take firm action against Colombo.

On Sunday, Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa said India should register the strongest disapproval of the "belligerent actions" of the Sri Lankan navy, the Times of India reported.

"I urge you [Narendra Modi] to have this issue taken up at the highest level on the Sri Lankan side to secure the immediate release of the fishermen and their boats," she said in a letter to the Indian prime minister.

Contentious issue

Colombo denies the charges and says Indian fishermen are regularly straying into Sri Lanka's waters and depriving its fishermen of their livelihood.

During their discussions, Rajapakse and Modi agreed to continue official-level talks for a permanent solution to poaching, a major irritant in bilateral ties.

The two countries are separated by a narrow strip of sea known as the Palk Strait which is also a rich fishing ground.

Attempts by fishing communities in India and Sri Lanka to resolve the problem have ended in failure.


Al Jazeera and agencies
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