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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2396

Karunanidhi asks PM to take urgent action to demonstrate firmness to find a lasting solution to attacks on fishermen

By M Rama Rao - Reporting for Asian Tribune from Delhi

New Delhi, 01 April (Asiantribune.com): As the death toll in the firing on Indian fishermen off Rameswaram –Kanyakumari belt has risen to five, with a fisherman succumbing to bullet injuries on Friday, Tamil Nadu chief minister Muthavel Karunanidhi.has cautioned Delhi that the situation was likely to go out of control unless "some stern measures are taken to make Indian waters safe for fishing by Indian fishermen".

He asked the Prime Minister to take 'urgent' action to 'demonstrate the firmness' of the Government of India to find a lasting solution to attacks on fishermen

Naval Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta has taken up the issue with his Sri Lankan counterpart, who assured him 'Sri Lankan boats will not open fire on Indian fishing boats'.

It is not yet clear who had opened the fire on Indian fishermen. The Naval Chief agreed that the incident being handiwork of LTTE cannot be ruled out. "We will investigate all possibilities", he said even as the issue has become a burning political issue in Tamil Nadu.

The National Union of Fishermen Anton Gomez has taken Karunanidhi government to task for being 'a mute spectator' to the frequent attacks on fishermen. He said Chief Minister M Karunanidhi did not
have the courage to question the Sri Lankan government over the attacks on Indian fishermen.

Four fishermen died, two of them by drowning, after a boat carrying nine fishermen from a village in Kanyakumari District came under fire in Sri Lankan waters, about 30 nautical miles from Rameswaram on Thursday. Two fishermen were injured seriously while three others managed to escape unhurt. One of the injured died later in the hospital. Shooting off a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday, Karunanidhi said an investigation should be conducted to find out the identity of the killers and their international connections.

He also called for intensive sea and air patrolling by the Coast Guard and Navy by inducting more man power and state-of-the-art vessels and aircraft.

Karunanidhi also asked the Prime Minister to place the patrolling off TN under a single command irrespective of east or west sea coast as there was some "confusion at present in the matter".

"I will be grateful if urgent action is taken so as to demonstrate the firmness of the Government of India to find a lasting solution to this vexed issue. I look forward to your early response in this matter",the chief minister wrote in his letter, which was released to the media in Chennai.

Terrorism To Figure At SAARC Summit

The SAARC summit opening here this week will come to grips with terrorism, a manifestation of which was the attack on fishermen.

At the Secretary level preparatory committee meeting Sri Lankan side raised the issue of terrorism and advocated strongly for a collective fight against terrorism, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told reporters.

Sri Lanka also pressed for early implementation of SAARC Convention on Suppression of Terrorism to put in place a legal framework to fight against terrorism, he said.

India has been pressing for implementation of the Convention but it has been hampered because of differences with Pakistan over definition of terrorism.

Menon told a questioner that Sri Lanka had told Delhi in the run up to the summit meetings that they intend to raise terrorism strongly.

"It is something that I think the leaders will have to see how we can carry our cooperation against terrorism forward. There is an existing SAARC Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism. There was an additional protocol done in 2004 about the financing of terrorism, about action against financing of terrorism. We will have to see whether what we have done is sufficient and whether we can do more together to try and fight terrorism because this is an issue that concerns all of us", he stated.

Question: What kind of intra-regional mechanism are you looking at to combat terrorism of the kind which you see off and on here?

Foreign Secretary: I think what SAARC has been looking at so far is legal instruments which enable us to work together. That was what the Convention on Suppression of Terrorism was about. That was what the Additional Protocol for fighting the funding of terrorism, for cutting off funding (was about).

We have also looked at some other legal instruments – legal assistance, mutual legal assistance and so on. At one stage it had also been proposed that we might look at extradition arrangements within SAARC. But these are discussions that have not yet resulted in unanimity or in an agreement. Those will go on.

We will also I think use the occasion, because this is also a political conversation. So, this is an occasion where I think we will look for ideas. I think different States will come with their own ideas of what might be done and we will see what is feasible.

But my point is, at this stage, before the meeting has even happened and people have spoken, all I can say is that we know that this will be one of the issues and it is a big issue.

Question: Another terrorism question. After the LTTE air strikes, have you spoken to Sri Lanka? Have you expressed concern and assured any kind of help? Also with Bangladesh, India has concerns vis-à-vis terrorism and insurgent camps in Bangladesh? Has Bangladesh said anything to us ever since this new caretaker government has taken over looking at our concerns on terrorism?

Foreign Secretary: With Sri Lanka, as I said, we have made it clear to everyone concerned. As I just said to the earlier question, we are very concerned at the escalation of violence. The air strike is one example of that escalation of violence in the Sri Lankan conflict. Certainly, we will remain engaged with everyone, Sri Lankan government and everyone, to see what we can do not just to ameliorate the conditions that have been created by this and the humanitarian effects of this escalation of violence, but also to see what we can do to help towards a solution of this issue, to encourage the Sri Lankans themselves to find a solution to this issue.

On Bangladesh, this is an ongoing conversation. We will have an opportunity in our bilateral discussions this time to discuss the entire range of our relationship with Bangladesh. Obviously, this is
one of the issues which is very important. There are other issues also which we look forward to discussing with the government in Bangladesh.

Question: Pakistan has been raising the basic issue of definition of terrorism. Do all the SAARC members agree on this issue?

Foreign Secretary: The Convention makes it clear, from our point of view, what terrorism is. I think quite frankly, when you see terrorism you know it. I do not think we need to get into a semantic discussion of what terrorism is or is not. I think most people, most reasonable people, when they see terrorism they know what it is. I think more important is that we do something about it. That is the important thing about terrorism that we must stop terrorism and we need to do it together.

Question: Do you think the time has come for India to play a more direct role in Sri Lanka's negotiations?

Foreign Secretary: I think we hope to use our conversations over the next week or so, as I said earlier, to encourage the Sri Lankans themselves to find solutions to this tragic conflict.

-Asian Tribune -

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