In this context, the substantial number of fishermen, both Sri Lankan and Indian, arrested in recent months and incarcerated for poaching in each other’s waters, is an issue that has called for the attention of both Governments at high level. Therefore, discussions have continued between the two Governments in this regard.
Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Kurshid had a telephone conversation on this issue with External Affairs Minister (Prof.) G.L. Peiris who was in Jerusalem at the time. Having taken into account the humanitarian nature of the problem and difficulties resulting from long-term incarceration to livelihoods and lives of family members of the fishermen, the two Governments decided to release the fishermen who are presently in custody in India and in Sri Lanka as expeditiously as possible.
This initiative as a goodwill reciprocal gesture commencing from 13 January, is also in view of the Pongal festive season and a reflection of the strong bilateral relations. Sri Lanka released twenty Indian fishermen held in Malakam and India released the same number today in Tamil Nadu.
The Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Development of Sri Lanka, Dr Rajitha Senaratne, will visit New Delhi with a delegation of officials and representatives of Sri Lankan fishermen to hold discussions with his counterpart, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Processing Industries of India, Sharad Pawar, on 15 January.
The two Ministers are expected to discuss long-term measures that can be mutually agreed upon with a view to preventing fishermen from Sri Lanka and India engaging in unlawful fishing in each other’s waters, and implementing the ban on the use of illegal fishing methods.
The Ministers will also discuss arrangements being made for a meeting between the fishermen’s associations of Sri Lanka and India.