India calls on Sri Lanka to release 40 fishermen early

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The subject was dealt with at the fourth meeting of the Joint Working Group on Fisheries. (Representative)

New Delhi:

India on Wednesday called on Sri Lanka to ensure the early release of fishermen recently arrested for poaching in Sri Lankan waters.

The Indian side also reiterated the need to release all fishing boats in Sri Lankan custody, as promised by the Sri Lankan President during his state visit to India in November 2019, according to a statement from the Ministry of Fisheries.

This topic was addressed at the fourth meeting of the Joint Working Group on Fisheries in Virtual Mode, which covered the full range of topics related to fishermen and fishing boats.

Regarding the recent “arrest” of 40 fishermen and 6 boats by the Sri Lankan Navy, the leader of the Indian delegation urged the Sri Lankan side to secure their early release and to provide the necessary facilities including consular access and provision by that time Help, it said in the press release.

The Ministry of Fisheries said the two sides were also discussing the status of the cooperation between the Navy and the coastguard of both countries on patrol, the existing coastguard hotline and related operational matters, cooperation in the preservation of the marine environment and the timetable for the Patrol exchanged fifth meeting of the JWG. The Indian side expressed its sincere determination to work constructively with the Sri Lankan side to convene an early meeting of fisheries ministers on both sides.

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Earlier this year, during the virtual bilateral summit meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on September 26, both leaders agreed to “continue engagement to address fishermen’s problems through regular consultations and bilateral channels”.

The Indian side highlighted the initiatives that India has taken under the new Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana and other programs of the Government of India and the Governments of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry to diversify and reduce fishing pressure in Palk Bay.

The first meeting of the Joint Working Group took place on December 31, 2016 in New Delhi. The second joint working group took place on April 7, 2017 in Colombo. The third meeting took place on October 13, 2017 in New Delhi.

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