To work towards the ever debated problem of bottom trawling Indian fishermen, India and Sri Lanka recently agreed to set up procedures to repatriate arrested fishermen and have a hotline between coast guards of both the countries.
India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and her visiting counterpart Mangala Samaraweera from Sri Lanka have signed an agreement to have a joint working group on Fisheries (JWG) meeting every few months to discuss the fishermen issue and a meeting to sort out patrolling issues out.
The agreement comes just a day before Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s India visit. He is set to arrive in India for a day on November 7.
The fishermen issue has affected the bilateral ties between the two countries for many years and has been a constant topic of discussion between them.
The decision was taken during Samaraweera’s three days visit to New Delhi, after fishermen of both the countries failed to reach an agreement on ending fishing in Sri Lankan waters.
In a joint statement issued on November 5, they said the first ministerial meeting between the two countries would take place on January 2, 2017, in Colombo.
This JWG meeting would have representatives from both the ministries of foreign affairs, the coast guards and the Navies of both countries.
Further, there would be a hotline set between the coast guards of India and Sri Lanka, so as to have instant communication when required.
The Fishermen’s associations from both sides have now been asked to meet every six months and both the governments have agreed to their request that there should be no loss of life in of the handling of fishermen by the navies and the coast guards of the two countries.