COLOMBO, March 14 (Xinhua) -- The Sri Lankan navy on Thursday said it had arrested 53 Indian fishermen who had entered Sri Lankan waters illegally.
Navy spokesman Kosala Warnakulasuriya told Xinhua that the Indians were arrested at two separate locations within hours of the first arrest.
Late on Wednesday evening the navy arrested 19 Indian fishermen off the northern seas of Mannar while on Thursday morning another 34 Indians were arrested off the Delft islands, also in the north.
Warnakulasuriya said that the boats used by the fishermen were also seized and they are to be handed over to the police for further investigations.
Earlier this week sixteen fishermen, arrested by the Sri Lankan navy for fishing in Sri Lankan waters, were released and sent back to India.
Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen often stray into each other's territory as both countries are divided by a small strip of sea.
Indian Defence Minister AK Antony said in a statement this week that the Indian government has been consistently taking up the issue of Indians crossing into Sri Lankan waters with Sri Lanka to ensure that the Sri Lankan navy acts with restraint and Indian fishermen found near the International Maritime Boundary Line ( IMBL) are treated in a humane manner.
"In order to avoid recurrence of incidents involving our fishermen and keeping in mind the humanitarian and livelihood dimensions of fishermen issues, the government has reached an understanding with the government of Sri Lanka in October, 2008, to put in place practical arrangements to deal with Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL)," he said.
Indian fishermen often accuse the Sri Lankan navy of attacking them when they stray into Sri Lankan waters, an allegation that Sri Lanka denies.