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Tamil Nadu must initiate fishermen meet: Foreign secretary

Chennai, Nov 15 (): Tamil Nadu government has to take the initiative to arrange for the meeting between Indian fishermen associations and the Sri Lankan bodies in Chennai, India’s Foreign Secretary Sujata Singh said in Colombo.

According to her, the two nations JWGF (Joint Indo-Lankan Working Group on Fishing) next meeting could be held only after the meeting between two fishermen’s associations from India and Sri Lanka in Chennai, where they are expected to come to arrive at a understanding.

The Centre was waiting for the Tamil Nadu government to take further steps to facilitate the fishermen’s meeting, Singh said. The previous meeting of the JWGF met was in January 2012.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa wanted the meeting be held in Chennai and the Union Government had agreed to it. It is now up to TN government to take this forward and arrange the meeting of fishermen’s unions from the two countries, Singh added.

Asked if the Lankan leaders were worried about the Tamil Nadu factor playing a decisive role in determining India-Sri Lanka relations, Singh said that Sri Lanka was not. Sri Lanka understands that domestic issues were a factor which gave shape to the foreign policy of any country.

As for India, its relationship with Sri Lanka would continue and would be further strengthened, she said. Megaphone diplomacy was India’s policy. In Indo-Lankan meetings , all matters of mutual concern were taken up, she said.

At present around 146 fishermen from Tamil Nadu are in Sri Lankan jails. The Foreign Secretary who met a delegation of the TNA (Tamil National Alliance) led by R Sampanthan, appreciated India’s role in solving their concerns, Singh said.

TNA leaders met William Hague the British Foreign Secretary who assured them that his country would raise the issues of the Tamils with the Sri Lankan government on the sidelines of CHOGM.

Singh said that Commonwealth is important for India as it gives an opportunity to link up with many small states and offer help to them. India accounts for 60 per cent of the Commonwealth population.

Reacting to the charge that the Commonwealth focused on development and had given up on human rights and governance, Singh said that development and governance were the two pillars of the Commonwealth.

Foreign Minister Khurshid was happy that bilateral trade between two nations grew to reach $5 billion mark and Indian contribution to tourism and industrial investment was high.

He is to call on President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Nov 19 morning and also visit Jaffna to see the progress of India-funded development assistance projects, including the major flagship project to build 50,000 housing units. On his visit to the Northern Province, Khurshid is scheduled to see CM CV Vigneswaran and Governor Maj. Gen. G.A. Chandrasiri.