16 Indian fishermen nabbed by Sri Lanka for crossing maritime boundary

The Indian fishermen were caught in two separate instances. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons) Photograph:( Others )

New Delhi, Delhi, India Mar 23, 2017, 07.39 AM (IST)

Sixteen Indian fishermen were nabbed by the Sri Lankan navy in two separate instances for crossing the maritime border.

The arrests were made following a little more than a week after both New Delhi and Colombo released captive fishermen in a bid to normalise bilateral relations.

The two countries, which are separated by 12 nautical miles, have been embroiled in a terse fishing dispute over the last few years.

India says the island nation have been guilty of arresting people fishing in the Palk Strait, and Sri Lanka accuses India of using mechanised trawlers that are damaging to the ecosystem. 

In both incidents, eight fishermen each were apprehended by the Sri Lankan navy for crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL). The first batch of people was nabbed for poaching in the seas northwest of Analathivu Island off Jaffna, while the second group were caught in the seas north of Mannar, Colombo Page reported.

Transgression of IMBL has been a prickly point for the neighbouring countries.

Relations had hit a low point in 2015 when the then prime minister Ranil Wickramsinghe had told a television channel that "if Indian fishermen cross the sea boundary, Sri Lankan navy can shoot them" -- comments that were condemned by human rights activists and was also objected strongly by New Delhi.

But recently, the two South Asian nations have endeavoured to erase the creases between them. 

On March 13, 77 Indian and 12 Sri Lankan fishermen in each other's custody were repatriated following the diplomatic tension triggered by the killing of a fisherman a week earlier.