Sri Lankan Navy told not to fire at Indian fishermen: Antony

New Delhi, March 18 (IANS) The government has asked the Sri Lankan Navy to act with restraint and not to fire on Indian fishermen near the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL), Defence Minister A.K. Antony said Monday.

In written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha, Antony said the government attaches high priority to the welfare, safety and security of Indian fishermen.
“From time to time, there have been reports of attacks and apprehension on Indian fishermen near International Maritime Boundary Line. As soon as reports of attacks on Indian fishermen are received, the government, through diplomatic channels, takes up the matter with the Sri Lankan authorities,” he said.
He said the Sri Lankan government has denied involvement of its navy in these incidents.
“Keeping in mind the humanitarian and livelihood dimensions of the issue, the government has impressed on the Sri Lankan Navy to act with restraint, not to fire at our fishermen and treat our fishermen in a humane manner,” he said.
Answering a question on fishermen arrested by Pakistan, Antony said there were reports of 400 Indian fishermen in custody of the neighbouring country.
“As per available information with the external affairs ministry, as on date there are reports of nearly 400 fishermen, believed to be Indian, in Pakistan custody,” he said.
He said an India-Pakistan Judicial Committee has been set up consisting of retired judges from both countries to ensure humane treatment and expeditious release of prisoners, including fishermen, who have completed their prison terms.
“The government consistently takes up the issue concerning the release of all Indian fishermen and their boats in Pakistani custody with the government of Pakistan at all appropriate levels regularly,” he said.
The minister said that due to the government’s consistent efforts, 677 Indian fishermen were released by Pakistan in 2012 and seven have been released so far in 2013.