External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday informed Parliament that the matter of Indian fishermen being captured by Sri Lanka has been taken up with the island nation. While speaking at the ongoing Monsoon session of Parliament, Swaraj said, “The matter is being raised in each meeting of PM Modi with Sri Lankan President and Prime Minister. Same has resulted in release of 42 boats and 251 fishermen.”
Later during the Question Hour, CPI leader D Raja asked the External Affairs minister about time frame of return of the captured fishermen and what exactly is the government doing? Responding to the question, Swaraj said, “This is an adhoc pattern, at times they (Sri Lankan government) release the fishermen quickly and at times they take time. I would like to highlight that post the BJP government came into power, the releases have been done quickly.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader also said that government is not just working on the release of these fishermen, but has also ensured safety of their lives. “Five fishermen who were captured by Sri Lanka had death penalty during previous government’s term, but after BJP came into power PM Narendra Modi personally spoke to Sri Lankan authorities and got the charges removed and brought them back safely,” Swaraj added.
Sri Lanka in July released as many as 77 Indian fishermen held by it for allegedly poaching in the island nation’s international waters. According to PTI, the Sri Lankan commissioner general of prisons said the Department of Fisheries had instructed for the release of the fishermen who were arrested during different time periods.
After an increase in numbers of Indian fishermen crossing the international maritime boundary line (IMBL) for fishing which further lead to their arrest and seizure of fishing vessels by the Sri Lankan navy, Swaraj had in March 2017 said that India is taking up the issue of fishermen with the Sri Lankan government through diplomatic channels. “Central government accords the highest priority to promote the well-being, safety and security of Indian fishermen and have strongly conveyed to Sri Lanka that the use of force cannot be justified under any circumstances,” Swaraj had said earlier while making a statement in Rajya Sabha.