By Arvind Padmanabhan
Nay Pyi Taw, March 4 (IANS) Even as the Sri Lankan Navy arrested 32 more Indian fishermen, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh raised the issue with the neighbouring country’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, here Tuesday, calling for a humane approach to the issue.
Meeting on the margins of the BIMSTEC Summit, the two leaders also spoke about the upcoming US-led resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council, the text of which was released to member countries late Monday.
“The prime minister said it (the fishermen issue) was a livehood issue and must be handled in a humane manner by Sri Lanja,” Indian foreign office spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said at a post-meeting briefing.
The prime minister’s concern followed the arrest of at least 32 Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy Monday for allegedly intruding into their waters and the seizure of their eight trawlers.
The arrests came just ahead of the second round of talks between the fishermen of two sides scheduled March 13 in Colombo, mainly to discuss the rights over the waters in the Palk Strait between the two countries.
Manmohan Singh and Rajapaksa were here in this capital city of Myanmar for the third summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation.
Besides India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, the seven-nation grouping comprises Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Thailand.
Rajapaksa, on his part, raised the proposed resolution against Sri Lanka in Geneva which has been co-sponsored by the US, Britain, Montenegro, the Maldives and Mauritius.
“Our prime minister said we have just seen the draft and given that it has implications on both countries, let us keep in touch,” Akbaruddin said, referring to Manmohan Singh’s comments on the matter.
It is learnt that the draft resolution, which deals with the alleged war crimes against Tamil separatists, does not call for any sanctions but pushes for an international probe into the matter, which Colombo has thus far rejected.
The probe was first requested at the UNHCR Feb 25 after a post-civil war expert report. The war between Sri Lankan forces and the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) ended in 2009.
During their 25-minute meeting, the two leaders also raised the issue of closer economic relations as also reconciliation of ethnic Tamils after the bloody civil war.
(Arvind Padmanabhan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)