India monitoring China’s intentions in Indian Ocean: Krishna


New Delhi : Amid growing concerns about Beijing’s attempts to entrench its influence in India’s neighbourhood, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna Tuesday said China has been showing “more than the normal interest” in Indian Ocean affairs and its “intentions” are being closely monitored.

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“The government of India has come to realise that China has been showing more than the normal interest in the Indian Ocean. So we are closely monitoring the Chinese intentions,” Krishna said in the Lok Sabha.

“We are closely monitoring the developments in the Indian Ocean,” he said, adding that “appropriate action and measures” would be taken to safeguard India’s territorial integrity and the welfare of its fishermen.

Krishna’s statement about Chinese intentions comes amid reports of Beijing’s plan to build additional infrastructure in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and the deployment of its troops in Gilgit-Baltistan region of PoK, an area India regards as an integral part of Jammu and Kashmir.

There have also been concerns here over what is seen as an attempt by China to enhance influence in India’s neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Krishna was responding to a Calling Attention Motion on recent attacks on Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy, moved by T.R. Baalu of DMK.

Airing concerns over the plight of Indian fishermen, Baalu said that when an Indo-Sri Lanka agreement was inked in 1974 on the Katchatheevu Islands, which falls in the Palk Strait and falls in Sri Lankan territory, the then external affairs minister Swaran Singh had said the rights of fishing and navigation have been safeguarded.

Under the agreement, Indian fishermen can rest and dry their nets during fishing in international waters.

Baalu claimed that in 1976 the Indian fishermen’s rights were affected when secretaries of India and Sri Lanka exchanged two sets of letters. “The letters became part and parcel of the agreement without taking parliament and the state government into confidence… it is a blow to the fishermen,” he said.

The Katchatheevu island, which originally belonged to India, fell within Sri Lankan territorial waters when the maritime boundary was redrawn in 1974 following an agreement between the then prime ministers of the two countries.

The DMK leader asked the government to revisit the agreement on Katchatheevu and step up patrolling in the waters to protect Indian fishermen from attacks by the Sri Lankan Navy.

Krishna ruled out revisiting of the pact, saying “we cannot go back on the solemn agreement between two governments”. Krishna said Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao is currently in Colombo and the issues relating to fishermen will be discussed.

“Sri Lanka is a friendly country, an aspect that is needed to be kept in mind,” he said, adding he was planning to travel to the island nation in October when issues related to fishermen would be discussed.