The India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on Fishing will meet in New Delhi on 28 March to address various issues relating to fishing by the two sides in the narrow Palk Straits and the Gulf of Mannar.
Indian English daily The Hindu reported that the senior officials of the External Affairs Ministries of India and Sri Lanka, representatives from the Ministry of Fisheries, Ministry of Defence, the Attorney General’s Department, Immigration, and Armed Forces will take part in the meeting.
The Joint Working Group is to address the proposed Memorandum of Understanding on development and cooperation in the field of fisheries.
Reportedly, the joint meeting will take place after a gap of over five years.
Both sides have decided to hold the next meeting of the Joint Working Group on Fishing at an early date during the discussions between India’s Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in January.
Rao visited the island in late January to discuss the issue of fishermen from both sides straying into each other’s waters and recent killings of two Indian fishermen allegedly by the Sri Lankan Navy.
A joint statement issued following the Foreign Secretary’s visit said the two sides decided to enhance and promote contacts between the fishermen’s associations on both sides, since such contacts have proved to be mutually beneficial.
The Sri Lankan government vehemently denied that its navy was involved in the fishermen’s killings.
With more Sri Lankan fishermen from the North and East returning to fishing following the end of the war, the presence of Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan waters has raised opportunity for more confrontations between the two groups.
Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna has said that almost all instances of arrests and harassment to the Indian fishermen seems to have occurred in Sri Lankan waters, when they stray across the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL). He pointed out the need for the Indian fishermen to be conscious of their actions.