Colombo: The festering India-Sri Lanka fishermen issue only worsened on Saturday with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe stirring a controversy, when he referred to intruding Indian fishermen and said his country’s law has a provision to “shoot” anyone trying to “break into my house”.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj meets Sri Lanka’s PM Ranil Wickremesinghe in Colombo on Saturday. pic/pti
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj meets Sri Lanka’s PM Ranil Wickremesinghe in Colombo on Saturday. Pic/PTI

The statement, made to a television channel, came as India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was in Colombo to lay the ground for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bilateral visit this week.

Sushma Swaraj also met Wickremesinghe later and raised the fishermen issue with him. Indian external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said Sushma Swaraj raised the matter related to Indian fishermen during talks with the Sri Lankan prime minister. “She explained our view that issue of fishermen is a humanitarian issue. It is an issue of livelihood,” the spokesperson said.

Wickremesinghe said his government was willing to make a “reasonable deal” with India with respect to fishing rights. "Why are you coming into our waters? Why are you fishing in our waters? Stay on the Indian side... there will be no issue... no one will shoot anyone else... you stay on the Indian side, let our fishermen stay on the Sri Lankan side... otherwise, don’t make accusations of human rights violation by the navy.”

He also took a pot shot at India for filing murder charges against the two Italian marines over the killing of two Indian fishermen in 2012.

“Why did you all pick up the Italian sailors? You say you are friendly with Italy; show that same magnanimity to Italy that you want us to show.”

Our territory
He also said Indian fishermen could not be allowed to trawl in his country’s territorial waters. His comments came even as armed Sri Lankan fishermen allegedly abducted seven Indian fishermen late on Wednesday, and demanded a ransom from their families.

The seven Indian fishermen later returned to Tamil Nadu, a leader said on Saturday in Rameswaram.

According to the Sri Lankan media, the Indian Coast Guard detained six Sri Lankan fishermen on the charge of poaching in Indian waters, 128 nautical miles off Nagapattinam coast on Thursday.