Chennai: Sri Lanka and India on Monday decided to release fishermen currently in their custody. Colombo has also agreed to release a large number of boats belonging to Indian fishermen. The decisions were taken at the India-Sri Lanka ministerial level talks on fishermen in Colombo on Monday evening.
External affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said Sri Lanka will be releasing 51 Indian fishermen and India would release three Sri Lankan fishermen. "Most significantly, Sri Lanka has also agreed to consider our request for release of fishing boats," Mr Swarup said of the meeting. India considers Sri Lanka's decision to release fishing boats captured from the fishermen as a significant move since this is probably the first time that vessels are being handed over to the fishermen.
The talks attended by Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh and Sri Lankan fisheries minister, Mahinda Amaraweera, decided to intensify cooperation in patrolling and to institute periodic interaction between the Coast Guard of the two countries.
“Both sides agreed to a set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to expedite the release and handing over of fishermen in each other’s custody on completion of respective legal and procedural formalities. The immediate release of fishermen presently in custody was announced following the ministerial level talks,” a joint communiqué issued after the meeting said.
The meeting also reached an understanding to ensure that there was no physical harm or loss of life while apprehending fishermen by Navy and Coast Guard of the two countries. It was agreed to explore the possibility of introducing effective tracking systems for the fishing vessels and making the use of onboard communication equipment mandatory, the statement said.
While Sri Lanka reiterated that the practice of bottom trawling needs to end at the earliest, the Indian side assured that bottom trawling would be phased out in a “graded time-bound manner within a practicable timeframe keeping in mind the capacity building of the fishermen who have to be diversified into deep sea fishing as well as other coastal fisheries activities”.
The statement said the Sri Lankan side was briefed about the measures already instituted, including the decision to construct a new fishing harbour at Mookaiyur in Ramanathapuram district and capacity building programme for Indian fishermen on deep-sea fishing....