Dec 29, Colombo: The India – Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on Fishing will meet in Colombo on January 13 and 14 to address various issues relating to fishing by the two sides in the narrow Palk Straits and the Gulf of Mannar.
An Indian delegation comprising senior state and central government officials will arrive in Sri Lanka to conduct discussions on resolving the nagging issue of each other’s fishermen crossing the territorial waters.
Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne has said that the Indian delegation will include representatives from the Indian ministries of Fisheries, Defence, and Foreign as well as the Indian navy personnel. In addition representatives from the states of Tamil Nadu and Andra Pradesh will also be represented.
The Minister noted that Sri Lankan fishermen are being arrested not only in Tamil Nadu but also in other areas as well.
“Our fishermen are being arrested in Andra Pradesh, especially in Vishakapatnam, Orissa and Andaman Islands. When they are arrested in Andaman Islands we have to deal with the central government,” the Minister has complained and added that in such cases the paper work takes a long time.
The crossing of the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) that separates the two nations’ waters by the fishermen on both sides has become a serious diplomatic issue.
The Minister has pointed out that he Tamil Nadu fishermen who crossed over to Sri Lankan waters and get caught go scot-free without any punishment whereas the Sri Lankan fishermen arrested in India languish in Indian jails.
The Minister has said that the proposed installation of a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) in the high seas will reduce cases of boats straying into Indian waters.
According to the government about 3,000 multi-day fishing vessels owned by Sri Lankan fishermen are being operated in the deep sea and in international waters in the Indian Ocean.