Sri Lanka has handed over four bodies of fishermen recovered from a sunken Indian fishing boat which collided with a Navy vessel of the island nation on Monday.
The bodies were handed over to the Indian Coast Guard at the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) at around 10:00 AM (local time) today, the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) said in a statement.
On Thursday, India lodged a strong protest with Sri Lanka over the death of Indian fishermen in the collision between their vessel and the naval craft of the island nation, saying steps should be taken to ensure that such incidents do not recur.
The Indian fishing trawler sank in the Sri Lankan waters about 8 nautical miles within the IMBL northwest of Delft Island.
"SLN launched a Search and Rescue (SAR) operation in search of missing fishermen of the Indian poaching vessel which sank in Sri Lankan waters on 18th January following a mid-sea collision.
"The SAR operation ultimately led to the recovery of 04 corpses of fishermen victimised by the incident. At the autopsy, it was revealed that three corpses were of Indian nationals and the remaining one was of a person with Sri Lankan origin, who lived in India," the statement said.
Subsequent to the legal proceedings initiated by the Magistrate Court of Mallakam, the four corpses have been formally handed over to the Consulate General Office of India in Jaffna, where on request of the Consulate General Office, the SLN assisted to hand over the corpses to India.
As such, those killed were transferred by a Sri Lanka Coast Guard craft and handed them over to the Indian Coast Guard Ship Atulya at the IMBL, the Navy added.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said a strong demarche was made to Sri Lanka's Acting High Commissioner in New Delhi while the Indian envoy in Colombo also lodged a protest with the country's foreign ministry.
"We are shocked at the unfortunate loss of lives of three Indian fishermen and one Sri Lankan national following a collision between their vessel and a Sri Lankan naval craft," the MEA said in a statement.
The fishermen were from Tamil Nadu and they had set out for fishing on January 18.
The MEA said India expressed "deep anguish" over the incident and emphasised the need to deal with issues pertaining to fishermen in a humanitarian manner.
"Existing understandings between the two governments in that regard must be strictly observed. Utmost efforts should be made to ensure that there is no recurrence," it said.