CHIEF OF INDIAN NAVAL STAFF DOES NOT RULE OUT LTTE
INVOLVEMENT IN THE KILLINGS OF INDIAN FISHERMEN
The Chief of the Indian Naval Staff, Admiral
Sureesh Mehta has not ruled out the involvement of the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as Tamil Tigers, a terrorist
group in Sri Lanka, in the recent incidents of firing on Indian
fishermen. It is widely known that the LTTE has been engaged in
the practice of attacking Indian fishing boats, with the aim of
discrediting the Sri Lanka Navy as well as kidnapping Indian fishermen
straying into Sri Lankan waters to achieve their political objectives.
Four Indian fishermen were killed in a firing
incident in Indian territorial waters on March 29, 2007. Foreign
media have pointed fingers at the Sri Lanka Navy for these killings.
Basing his views on assurances given by the Sri
Lankan Naval chief, Admiral Mehta acknowledged that purpose of
the shooting could have been to create a rift between India and
Sri Lanka. Admiral Mehta told newsmen, “I had personally
spoken to the Chief of the Sri Lankan Navy five days back and
he assured me that his men had no intention of harassing fishermen
in this manner. The Sri Lankan Navy has also issued strict instructions
asking its personnel not to open fire on Indian fishermen who
had strayed into Lankan waters."
Indian sources confirmed that it was a fishing
trawler named ‘Mariah’ that fired at the fishermen
and that the incident took place within Indian waters.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka Navy has denied the
allegations that it was responsible for the killings of the four
Indian fishermen. According to naval headquarters, the Sri Lanka
Navy does not fire at fishermen and they have instructions to
adhere to the Standing Operational Procedures when dealing with
fishermen. In a recent meeting between top officers from the Sri
Lankan security establishment and the Indian High Commission in
Colombo, the Sri Lankan navy chief had shown maps to prove that
his ships were nowhere in the vicinity when the incident of firing
on Indian fishermen took place.
The Sri Lanka Navy has consistently maintained
its strong traditional relationship with the Indian Navy and the
Indian Coast Guard, and assists Indian fishermen in distress in
Sri Lankan waters jointly with the Indian Coast Guard.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement,
“The Government of Sri Lanka also wishes to point out that
as a responsible naval force of a friendly country, the Sri Lanka
Navy does not under any circumstances enter into Indian territorial
It adds, “The Government of Sri Lanka is
of the view that any complicity regarding the alleged incident
must be attributed solely to the LTTE, who have resorted to such
provocations in the past as well, in attempts to create strains
in the bilateral relationship between India and Sri Lanka. Sri
Lanka remains committed to continuing its engagement with the
Indian side to work out a coordinated mechanism between the two
Navies, to leave no grounds for any such allegations in the future.”
Meanwhile, on March 10, 2007, there was another
incident of firing on Indian fishermen in the general area South
West of Kachchativu island. Once more, allegations of responsibility
were directed at the Sri Lanka Navy. Following investigation into
the incident, it was found that no vessel of the Sri Lanka Navy
had operated in the vicinity of Kachchativu island, at the time
of the incidents.
On the contrary, the Sri Lanka Navy assists Indian
fishermen in distress. Incidents in the recent past, such as assistance
to the Indian trawler RMS 94 on October 25, 2006 off Karainagar
and assistance to an Indian fishing boat in distress off Thondimannnar,
on 24th November 2006, bear testimony to such conduct.
In view of these circumstances, it is reasonable
to assume that the acts of violence against Indian fishermen are
being perpetrated by the LTTE, with a vested interest in attempting
to damage the cordial bilateral relationship between India and
This increase in allegations of attacks on Indian
fishermen comes at a time when Indian and Tamil Nadu authorities
are taking steps to curb the arms smuggling networks of the LTTE.
Meanwhile, the Government of Sri Lanka has proposed
to the Indian authorities its willingness to work out an arrangement
with India to jointly monitor the International Maritime Boundary
Line on either side and to share information regarding the movement
of Indian fishermen. In addition, the Government of Sri Lanka
has also indicated its willingness to send a team to India to
cooperate in the investigation of the allegations raised by Indian
There is also the issue that the LTTE is engaged
in clandestine procurement of materials such as explosives, electric
detonators and ball-bearings and aluminum ingots for claymore
mines. The Sri Lanka Navy detected an LTTE boat carrying more
than 60,000 electronic detonators from India in January 2006.
It was intercepted off Kalpitiya in Sri Lankan territorial waters.
Since then, the Navy has destroyed a number of trawlers and small
fibreglass boats belonging to the LTTE.
The recent arrests of operatives and the seizures
of materials for making explosives meant for the Tamil Tigers,
coupled with the mid-sea hijacking of a Jordanian commercial vessel
in December 2006, indicate that the LTTE has stepped up its activity
along the Tamil Nadu coast.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
02 April 2007