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India tells Sri Lanka to release 53 fishermen

India tells Sri Lanka to release 53 fishermen

New Delhi/Colombo: India Thursday told Sri Lanka to treat the 53 Indian fishermen arrested by its navy humanely and release them at the earliest.

The external affairs ministry said Sri Lankan authorities arrested 19 fishermen Wednesday and another 34 Thursday for allegedly fishing in Sri Lanka's waters.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshis said the first lot of 19 had been taken to Talaimannar in Sri Lanka's northwest and the Indian consul in Jaffna would be gaining access to them.

"We are trying to meet the Sri Lankan authorities" regarding the other 34 too, he added.

The minister told parliament that Sri Lanka's deputy high commissioner was summoned Thursday and told to treat the arrested men in a humane manner.

He was also told that there should be no violence against them. India said it expected these fishermen to be swiftly sent back to India along with their fishing vessels.

The minister's statement that the government was concerned about the plight of its fishermen getting caught by the Sri Lanka Navy drew praise from the AIADMK.

AIADMK's V. Maitreyan said he was happy that the Sri Lankan diplomat had finally been summoned.

Earlier, the Sri Lankan Navy said it had arrested 53 Indian fishermen who entered Sri Lankan waters illegally.

Navy spokesman Kosala Warnakulasuriya said 19 were caught off the northern seas of Mannar Wednesday evening and 34 off Delft islands, also in the north, Thursday.

Warnakulasuriya told Xinhua that the boats used by the Indians were seized.

Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen often stray into each other's territory as both countries are divided by a small strip of sea.

In Chennai, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to step up efforts to secure the release of the Indian fishermen.

"We are agitated by incidents of repeated capture of our fishermen while pursuing their livelihood. We expect the government of India to also respond and react pro-actively when incidents of this nature happen," she said in a letter to the prime minister.

"Let Sri Lanka not be emboldened by your silence and construe it as a sign of weakness and indifference towards our fishermen," she said.


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