India on Wednesday called on Sri Lanka to ensure the early release of fishermen arrested recently on the charge of poaching in Sri Lankan waters.
According to a statement by Ministry of Fisheries, the Indian side also reiterated the need for releasing all fishing boats in Sri Lankan custody in line with the commitment given by Sri Lankan President during his state visit to India in November 2019.
This issue came at the fourth meeting of the joint working group on fisheries through virtual mode, during which the entire gamut of issues related to fishermen and fishing boats was discussed.
Referring to the recent ”apprehension” of 40 fishermen and 6 boats by Sri Lanka Navy, the leader of the Indian delegation called on the Sri Lankan side to ensure their early release and till such time, to provide necessary facilitation including consular access and necessary assistance, the release said.
The Fisheries Ministry said that two sides also exchanged views on the status of cooperation between Navy and Coast Guard of both countries in patrolling, existing hotline between the Coast Guards and related operational matters, cooperation in preservation of marine environment as well as the schedule for the fifth meeting of the JWG. The Indian side conveyed its sincere determination to work in a constructive spirit with the Sri Lankan side for convening an early meeting of the Fisheries Ministers on both sides.
Earlier this year, during the virtual bilateral Summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa held on 26 September, both leaders agreed to “continue engagement to address the issues related to fishermen through regular consultation and bilateral channels.”
The Indian side highlighted the initiatives being taken by India under the new Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana and other schemes of Government of India and governments of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry to diversify and reduce fishing pressure in the Palk Bay.
The first meeting of the Joint Working Group was held on December 31, 2016, in New Delhi. The Second Joint Working Group was held in Colombo on April 7, 2017. Meanwhile, the third meeting was held in New Delhi on October 13, 2017.