India plans to convey to Sri Lanka its concern about the “very provocative” statements emanating from Colombo on the fishermen’s issue, which can “vitiate” the atmosphere for talks on the subject, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Sunday.
Addressing a press conference here on the NDA government’s completion of one year in power, she also dismissed allegations of lack of transparency in the ties with Sri Lanka.
She said India’s proposal for resolving the fishermen’s issue has been rejected by Sri Lanka.
“Our understanding is that it is a livelihood issue, their fishermen come to our side (territorial waters) to fish, and our fishermen also go to that side, and then they get arrested. We want to sit with them and explain that this is a livelihood issue and can be solved only with a humanitarian approach, not otherwise,” said Sushma Swaraj.
She said sometimes “big statements come from that side”. “Sometimes very provocative statements come. So we plan to sit with them and convey to them that such provocative statements vitiate the atmosphere and that we should firstly keep the atmosphere conducive before discussing the fishermen issue,” she said.
She said any talk on the fishermen issue should be held with the focus that it concerns their livelihood and it should be treated as a humanitarian issue.
Earlier this week, the ministry had voiced its displeasure after Sri Lankan Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said Colombo had rejected India’s proposal to allow Indian fishermen to catch fish in Sri Lankan waters for 65 days a year.
“Not 65 days, we will not agree for even 65 hours,” Amaraweera said in Galle.
India had described the minister’s remarks as “not helpful”.
Earlier, in March ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Sri Lanka, the country’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had sparked a major controversy by suggesting that Indian fishermen could be shot if they intruded into the country’s waters.
Sushma Swaraj also denied allegations of lack of transparency in the bilateral relations with Colombo, saying both sides have made four visits to each other in three months. “Four visits in three months, that is obviously because we want to keep the relationship transparent,” she asserted.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena made India the destination of his maiden overseas visit on February 15 after taking over in January this year, as did his Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweera. Sushma Swaraj visited the island nation in early March and Modi went a week later.(Manorama)