Sri Lanka, India must resolve contentious fishermen issue, says Wickremesinghe

Friday, 7 October 2016 00:30 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Reuters: Visiting Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, on Thursday (6 October) said Sri Lanka and India must resolve the contentious fishermen issue amicably.

Wickremesinghe was speaking at World Economic Forum (WEF) in New Delhi.

Colombo has long fumed over poaching and illegal fishing by Indian fishermen that it says deplete the catches of its own fishermen.

“Generally, we don’t keep them in custody - the Indian fisherman. I think a few of them were released just before I came here. We have not kept them but we had to find a solution to it and that has to come. Otherwise, there is going to be a lot of problems in Sri Lanka in the north. Basically, they (Indian fishermen) are fishing in Sri Lanka waters and depriving the fishermen of catch,” Wickremesinghe said in New Delhi.

He added he hoped both the countries would reach a consensus in November after due deliberations between the concerned ministries. Sri Lankan authorities detain Indian fishermen as they often cross the International Maritime Boundary Line for fishing in its waters.

Arrests of Indian fishermen often spark protests in southern state of Tamil Nadu and even became a regional issue in campaigning for the 2014 Indian general elections.

Wickremesinghe also expressed hope that tension between India and Pakistan would cool off.

“Let us hope things are resolved. I just commend your Narendra Modi, prime minister, for the manner in which he has shown his leadership. It is a very difficult situation,” Wickremesinghe added.

Tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours has flared up after New Delhi conducted “surgical strikes” in Pakistan-ruled Kashmir last month after a militant attack on an army camp that killed 19 soldiers.

Wickremesinghe is on a three-day visit to India to discuss bilateral and regional issues.