New Delhi: Amid uncertainty over the release of five Indian fishermen facing death sentence in Sri Lanka, a delegation of fishermen from Tamil Nadu on Monday met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and sought Centre's intervention for their "immediate release".
The delegation, accompanied by senior BJP leaders from the state and Union Minister State for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan, held talks for nearly 90 minutes and also sought Centre's intervention to release boats, seized by the Lankan authorities.
"The government is committed to the efforts of bringing back the fishermen," Radhakrishnan told reporters after the meeting here.
Asked about reports of India withdrawing an appeal filed in the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka against the verdict, he parried the question saying they were concerned only about the release of the fishermen.
"I strongly feel that it is better not to complicate the issue with things being reported in the midway," he said.
Queried about the time frame for the release of fishermen, he replied that no government can assure any time frame on this "complex legal issue".
India had filed an appeal in the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka against a verdict of its High Court awarding death sentence to five Indian fishermen in the island nation for alleged drug smuggling.
Emerson, P Augustus, R Wilson, K Prasath and J Langlet, all hailing from Tamil Nadu, were apprehended in 2011 and were sentenced to death by the Colombo High Court on October 30 for alleged drug trafficking.
The court ruling had triggered fiery protests in parts of Tamil Nadu and sporadic violence broke out in and around Rameswaram island.
The issue of fishermen is a very emotive matter for both Sri Lanka and India, where Tamil Nadu-based parties including AIADMK and DMK have been regularly pressing the government to take up the matter with the Lankan authorities seriously and have often resented high-profile visits from the island nation.