Due to persistent efforts by the Indian government, 461 of the 485 Indian fishermen held in Sri Lanka during 2020–22 have been released, said V Muraleedharan, minister of state for external affairs, in a statement to the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.
He stated in a written response to a query in the upper house of Parliament that Indian fishermen are occasionally detained by Sri Lankan officials for allegedly exceeding the international maritime boundary and fishing in Lankan seas.
“The safety, security, and welfare of Indian fishermen are of utmost importance to the Indian government. The government raises the issue with the government of Sri Lanka through diplomatic channels as soon as reports of purported attacks on Indian fishermen are received, he added.
The Sri Lankan Navy has detained 485 Indian fishermen in total over the last three years, according to the information that is currently accessible. In 2020, 74 fishermen were among them, followed by 159 in 2021 and 252 in 2022.
11 Indian boats were seized by Sri Lankan authorities in 2020, 20 in 2021, and 35 in 2022.
461 of these fishermen have been released thanks to the government’s persistent efforts, according to Muraleedharan, who also noted that as of December 2, 24 Indian fishermen were still being held in Sri Lankan custody.
Concerns about Indian fisherman have been brought up at the highest levels, including by our Prime Minister during the virtual bilateral summit held in September 2020 with the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, according to Muraleedharan.
S. Jaishankar, the minister of external affairs, brought up the issue as well during his trip to Colombo in January 2021. During his meeting with the Sri Lankan minister of fisheries, Jaishankar covered all topics pertaining to Indian fishermen.
When the foreign secretary visited Colombo in October 2021, he discussed the matter with dignitaries from Sri Lanka.
“The need for the Sri Lankan government to approach issues involving fishermen in a humane manner was emphasised. Additionally, it was emphasised that any existing agreements between the two countries in that regard must be rigorously adhered to, and both parties should make sure that force was never used, according to Muraleedharan.
On January 15, 2022, Jaishankar spoke virtually with Sri Lanka’s finance minister and met with the country’s foreign minister in person when the latter was in India in February of this year to discuss the early release of Indian fishermen who were being held there. The topic was also discussed when the Sri Lankan finance minister visited in March.