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Nirupama discusses killing of fishermen with Sri Lanka

[Hindu, Monday, 31 January 2011 20:30 No Comment]

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao conveyed, in an “open and candid manner,” to the Sri Lankan side the facts on the killing of two Indian fishermen in January in the Palk Bay, and the Sri Lankan side “agreed completely that violence should be avoided.”

“We have made it very clear to them based on what our fishermen have told us… and the investigations that have been conducted in Tamil Nadu… [What the fishermen told us] is that people in naval uniform have accosted our fishermen and the incidents [of killing] happened in that situation. So this is what we have ascertained from our side,” she said here.

In discussions with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and others, she stressed that the killing of fishermen should be fully investigated and all steps taken to prevent their recurrence. “I conveyed these concerns [on the killing of fishermen] to him [the Sri Lankan President], and he was very receptive. He agreed completely that violence should be avoided and that such incidents should not take place, and he told me that the Sri Lankan side was conducting a serious investigation in this matter,” she told journalists at the India House later.

Asked about the theory of a third force in the region that is being floated in Sri Lanka, she said: “I don’t have anything to say about it… We are proceeding on the information we have; what our fishermen have given to us. What we have with us, we have nothing to corroborate what the Sri Lankans have claimed [on the existence of a third force in the region].”

Joint statement

India and Sri Lanka will discuss “arrangements based on the current situation so as to strengthen the safety and security of fishermen,” according to a joint statement issued at the end of the Foreign Secretary’s visit.

The current situation was significantly different from that of October 2008, when the first joint statement on fishing arrangements was first made.

“This is a post-conflict situation…We are of the view that [the October 2008 agreement] arrangements should be abided by and observed in both letter and spirit,” she said.

The joint statement said: “Given the very close … bilateral relationship between the two countries, any development which impacts the wellbeing of the Indian fishing community pursuing their livelihoods in the waters between the two countries, is of the utmost concern to Sri Lanka. The government of Sri Lanka is, therefore, committed to ascertaining the facts behind the incidents. While continuing with further inquiries, the Sri Lankan authorities have requested that additional information be made available by the Indian side. Both sides agreed that the use of force cannot be justified under any circumstances.”

Outcome

One of the outcomes of the series of meetings was that both countries agreed that the Joint Working Group on Fishing would be convened at an early date. It would work on the proposed memorandum of understanding on development and cooperation in fisheries.

[Full Coverage]

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