Talks between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen on the issue of fishing in the Palk Bay and Palk Strait are to be held here on March 25, the Lankan Ministry of Fisheries announced here on Thursday.
Spokesman for the Ministry Narendra Rajapaksa said both the Lankan and Indian sides have agreed to March 25. The talks were to be held on March 13, but they could not be because the Lankan government took time to order the release of the 177 Indian fishermen and 44 boats as per the condition laid down by TN Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. The Lankan Attorney General issued orders withdrawing the cases from the courts only on Wednesday leaving little time for the Indian delegation to come to the island.
However, on Wednesday, 116 fishermen were released and on Thursday a further 24 were. The rest will be released on Friday.
Reports from New Delhi said India and Sri Lanka have reached an understanding to release all fishermen and boats in each other’s custody prior to the next round of talks between the fishermen’s associations.
“As a goodwill measure prior to the next round of Fishermen’s Association discussions an understanding has been reached between the governments of India and Sri Lanka to release fishermen and their boats in custody,” said a press release issued by ministry of External Affairs on Thursday night. It added that the process of release has already started on Wednesday.
“Government of India attaches the highest importance to the safety and welfare of Indian fishermen. The government has worked assiduously to secure the release of Indian fishermen who are apprehended by the Lankan authorities for allegedly fishing in Lankan waters. Similarly, Lankan fishermen have also been apprehended by our authorities for fishing in Indian waters.”
Meanwhile, sources in Chennai said on the night of March 12, the Tamil Nadu government released nine Sri Lankan fishermen and their 12 boats.