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Tamil Nadu wants stronger Indian naval presence

As India again warned Sri Lanka that the killing of Indian fishermen by the latter's navy was damaging bilateral relations, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi Tuesday called for a stronger Indian naval presence,

“The coastal waters of south need to be paid some attention through resources and personnel [just] as land borders in north, west and east are being attended to,” Karunanidhi said.

“It is requested that our demand for more vessels, police stations and manpower, and better air surveillance capabilities may be considered favourably,” he said.

[See also related posts: 'Terror in Jaffna II: blocking international efforts' and 'Sri Lanka's fishy story'.]

Delhi Tuesday rejected Sri Lanka's claim a 'third force' was to be blamed for the attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen and noted that such incidents don't happen even on the Pakistani border.

Tamil Nadu killings

Karunanidhi was speaking at the fourth Chief Ministers Conference on internal security held in New Delhi. The conference was addressed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and union Home Minister P. Chidambaram.

The Tamil Nadu chief minister referred to the repeated killings of the Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy, saying:

“Fishermen who cross international borders unwittingly and apprehended by other neighbouring countries in the west and the east are not subjected to physical harm.”

“[However] Indian fishermen who cross the international maritime border off Sri Lanka are repeatedly subjected to physical harm, harassment and at times get killed.”

Karunanidhi also said that the Sri Lankan government should abide by the October 2008 India-Sri Lanka joint statement on fishing arrangements that stated that there should be no firing on Indian fishermen.

India - Sri Lanka ties

On Tuesday India told Colombo that use of force against Tamil Nadu fishermen should not be repeated and asked it to take a decision that will not upset bilateral ties, NDTV reported.

Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao raised the matter in “open and candid manner” with Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa, The Hindu reported.

Sri Lanka has flatly denied its navy has attacked Tamil Nadu fishermen has instead blamed a ‘third force’.

Responding, Ms. Rao told reporters:

“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].”

Noting that the situation today was different from 2008, when the first bilateral agreement on protecting fishermen was made, she said there was now no scope for ambiguity.

“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.

Noting India’s cordial and friendly relations with Sri Lanka, Krishna said:

"So it is in this context that the Sri Lankan Government will have to revisit the question and take some decision which will not upset the bilateral relations between our two countries."

"It has been pointed out to Sri Lankan authorities that it does not happen with Pakistan or any other country and why should it happen with Sri Lanka alone?"


Photo: India has commissioned a second squadron  of Israeli-built unmanned spy planes based in Gujarat. Photo rediff.com

Meanwhile, Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna has also directed Foreign Secretary Rao to convene a meeting of the Indo-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on the issue around February 15. including better air surveillance, in the waters between the two states, IANS reports.

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