Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen meet and decide on a road map

Mar 29, Colombo: India and Sri Lanka held discussions on the issues of each other’s fishermen and agreed that all fishermen need to be treated in a humane manner and not to use force against the fishermen in the respective territorial waters.

A Sri Lankan delegation led by Ranjith Uyangoda, Additional Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs met an Indian delegation led by T.S. Tirumurti, Joint Secretary (BSM), Ministry of External Affairs of India, in New Delhi during the India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on Fisheries held from March 28-29.

“Both sides reiterated the high priority given by their respective governments to issues of fishermen and their livelihood. They stressed the need for all fishermen to be treated in a humane manner,” a joint statement from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said.

To ensure the safety and security of fishermen, both sides agreed that the use of force cannot be justified under any circumstances. The Sri Lankan side has stressed the need to respect the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) when fishing by both sides’ fishermen.

Sri Lanka has informed that the recent violent incidents in January 2011, which resulted in the death of two Indian fishermen, are being further investigated.

The two sides noting that the Joint Statement on Fishing Arrangements of 26th October 2008 had led to a decrease in violent incidents in 2009-2010 welcomed the Joint Statement issued during the visit of the Foreign Secretary of India to Sri Lanka in January 2011.

Given the socio-economic and livelihood dimensions to the issue, both sides have agreed that there was need for enhancing cooperation by building on the agreements reached earlier. They agreed on the need to discuss arrangements based on the current situation so as to further strengthen the safety, security, and livelihood of the fishermen.

Both sides welcomed the visit of a group of Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu to Sri Lanka from March 20-23, 2011 who have met Sri Lanka’s Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Minister and the Small and Traditional Industries Minister in addition to meeting their counterparts in Northern Sri Lanka.

Recalling the initiatives taken earlier in August 2010 by the fishermen of both countries, where a Sri Lankan fishermen delegation visited India, both sides agreed on the need to foster greater understanding between their respective fishermen and fishermen associations. Noting the invitation extended by the Indian fishermen to their Sri Lankan counterparts, the two sides agreed that a return visit to India would be important to take this process forward, the release said.

“Both sides discussed the various regulatory measures being put in place to manage the fishery resources in their respective waters. They noted the growing importance of fisheries to the livelihood of the coastal communities in Northern Sri Lanka. The two sides agreed that a road map needs to be put in place to ensure resource sustainability, livelihood, safety, and security of the fishermen of both countries. Both sides also discussed measures to expedite the release of bona fide detained fishermen from both countries,” India’s External Affairs Ministry underscored.

The draft Memorandum of Understanding on Development and Cooperation in the field of Fisheries was also discussed and it was decided to continue discussion on the draft.

The Indian side offered to continue its assistance to the fisheries sector in Sri Lanka, which was welcomed by the Sri Lankan side.

The Indian delegation also thanked the Sri Lankan authorities for facilitating the visit of Indian fishermen and pilgrims to Kachchativu for the festival of St. Anthony earlier this month.

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