Lankan sea mines not to affect fishermen: ICG

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Rameswaram (Tamil Nadu), Feb 1: Sea mines planted by the Sri Lankan Navy as part of the Underwater Defence System, between Katchatheevu and Delft Island, to curtail the movement of the Sea Tigers of the LTTE will not pose any threat to Indian Fishermen as there was no possibility of the mines drifting towards Indian waters, according to a Senior Indian Coast Guard (ICG) official.

Talking to a group of scribes who were taken in a hovercraft to the 'Fifth Island' near the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL), Commandant K Janardhanan, the Commanding Officer of ICG Station at Mandapam in Ramanathapuram District, said the Sri Lankan Navy planted the mines well within their territory and hence there was no alarming situation.

The mined area is very far from the IMBL which is 12 miles away from our (Indian) boundary, he says.

Asked whether the ICG would take up the matter with the Union Government for exerting pressure on Sri Lanka to remove the mines, he ruled out the possibility as it was the internal matter of the island nation.

The ICG was asking Indian fishermen to refrain from crossing IMBL by holding meetings at various fora. It was also conducting interactive programmes near fishermen villages.

Commandant Janardhanan said the ICG had activated all its defence establishments to prevent Indian fishermen trespassing into Lankan waters. ''We have increased sea patrolling and air surveillance for the purpose. Similar action has been taken by the Indian Navy also,'' he added.

He also cautioned the fishermen not to go to Katchatheevu as there was a fierce fighting going on between the Black Tigers and the Lankan Navy.

''There is a danger of Indian fishermen getting caught in the cross fire. Though they have every right to land in Katchatheevu for drying the nets, under the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord, the situation is not conducive now,'' he added.

Asked whether LTTE Supremo V Prabhakaran had intruded into Tamil Nadu, he replied in negative and said, ''If he attempts to enter India, it will be dangerous for him,'' he added.

To a query, he said the ICG had rescued more than 250 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees stranded in the small islands near the IMBL during the last one year.

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