Talks on with Lanka to facilitate fishing on Kuchativu: Patil

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New Delhi, Oct 22 (UNI) Expressing concern over incidents of alleged firing on the Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy, Home Minister Shivraj Patil today said talks were on with Sri Lanka to facilitate fishing by Indian fishermen on the Kuchativu Island to avert such incidents in future.

"As per an agreement between India and Sri Lanka in 1974, Indian fishermen are only allowed to rest and dry their fishing nets in Kuchativu and not to indulge in fishing. Talks are on with the Sri Lankan Government to explore whether Indian fishermen can be allowed to fish in the Kuchitivu area," Mr Patil told the Rajya Sabha during Question Hour.

Noting that as per the 1974 agreement, Kuchativu is on the Sri Lankan side, Mr Patil said. "Unfortunately, however, the fishermen have been going into areas where they should not be going. Having entered into an agreement with Sri Lanka, we are bound by it.

However, we are not leaving the issue and trying to explore if the fishermen can be allowed to go in the area where fishing is possible." Speaking on the matter, Mr D Raja of the CPI said that the 1974 agreement talked about protecting the traditional right of fishing the Indian fishermen in the Kuchativu area.

Mr Malaiswamy, deputy leader of the AIADMK in the House, said unless Kuchativu, was restored to India, the problem could not be solved. The Government should explore possiblities in this direction, he added.

On the alleged attacks on Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy, Mr Patil said the Indian Government had taken up the issue with the Sri Lankan Government.

"They have inquired into the matter and prepared a report which says that there have been no attacks on Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy," he said.

"The Indian Government is studying the report," Mr Patil added.

The Minister said, to protect fishermen, surveillance and patrolling are regularly done by the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard in Indian waters. These include coastal patrols, International Maritime boundary patrol, air patrol and radar surveillance.

UNI AR NK AS1425

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