NEW DELHI: India and Sri Lanka took steps towards permanent resolution of the long pending fishermen issues on Saturday as they agreed on setting up Joint Working Group on Fisheries and to establish a hotline between the Coast Guards of the countries.
The decisions were taken during the Ministerial-level bilateral talks, attended by Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Radha Mohan Singh. From the Sri Lankan side, Minister for Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera and Minister for Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Mahinda Amaraweera attended the meet. Minister of State for Road Transport, Highways & Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan and Sri Lankan Member of Parliament MA Sumanthiran were also part of the two delegations.
The proposed Joint Working Group (JWG) will meet every three months and the ministers for fisheries will sit together every six months. The first meeting would be held on January 2, in Colombo.
“Terms of reference included expediting the transition towards ending bottom trawling, working out a Standard Operating Procedure for handing over of apprehended fishermen, and looking at the possibilities for cooperation on patrolling,” a MEA statement said. The JWG will also discuss the issue of detained fishing vessels.
Both Governments agreed on setting up a hot-line between the two Coast Guards. The Ministers noted that the process is underway for the release of fishermen presently in custody on either side.