I am a very influential external affairs minister- Swaraj

Sushma SwarajIndia has made its objection known to Sri Lanka over Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s recent statement on shooting of “intruders” (Indian fishermen), the government told Rajya Sabha on Monday while informing that an interim arrangement was being put in place to deal with the problems of fishermen from both sides.

India’s stance was articulated by foreign minister Sushma Swaraj who had to face a volley of questions on Wickremesinghe’s remarks. Swaraj, at one point, even responded to a taunt from opposition member Rajiv Shukla who called her “helpless”.

Seeking clarification on the minister’s reply, Shukla said the Sri Lankan PM’s remarks about “right to shoot intruders” in the context of Indian fishermen was a slap on India’s face and showed the helplessness of the foreign minister who was “not even allowed to share dais with (US President Barack) Obama” during his recent visit here.

Though deputy chairman P J Kurien wanted the word “helpless” to be expunged, Swaraj said there was no need. In a retort to Shukla, Swaraj said, “I am not helpless. I am a very influential external affairs minister. During President Obama’s visit, I sat with my PM where I should have been seated. You see the pictures.”

She added, “Till we move towards deep sea fishing, the issue should not be dealt with on technical grounds but humanitarian grounds. An interim arrangement is being put in place between fishermen of both the countries to resolve the issue.”

Referring to her visit to Sri Lanka last week, Swaraj said she strongly raised India’s concerns over the Lankan PM comparing the fishermen issue with that of Italian marines.

Swaraj said she voiced objections when she met Wickremesinghe, saying the case of Italian marines could not be compared with that of Tamil fishermen. The Italian marines were not allowing the judicial process to start and had questioned the jurisdiction of Indian courts even before start of judicial proceedings, she said.

On the contrary, in the case of two Indian fishermen released recently, the judicial process had been completed and they were granted pardon by the President through an executive order, she said.

“I also raised with him that firing on each other’s fishermen is not right… I am happy to inform you that on both issues, Sri Lanka was agreeing with us,” Swaraj said, adding, “When I raised the issue with him, Wickremesinghe nodded in agreement and said he was not aware of the facts.”(TOI)

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