India and Sri Lanka to discuss release of detained Indian fishermen at December 30 meeting
India and Sri Lanka will hold a virtual meeting of their joint fisheries working group on December 30 that will address the recent apprehension of 36 Indian fishermen and the seizure of five fishing vessels by the Sri Lankan Navy.
The bilateral mechanisms established for discussions and cooperation on the fishermen issue could not be convened due to restrictions related to Covid-19 and the two parties have now mutually agreed to hold a joint working group meeting at the end of the month, external Foreign Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said at a weekly press conference on Thursday.
The government attaches “high priority” to the issue of the capture of Indian fishermen and the seizure of their boats by the Sri Lankan Navy on December 14 and 15, which was also reported by the Tamil Nadu government, he said.
“We are in close contact with the Sri Lankan government through our high commission in Colombo and the consulate in Jaffna to verify information and ensure consular access and facilitate the prompt release of the fishermen and their boats,” he added.
The issue of fishermen and seized fishing boats has been on the agenda of discussions between India and Sri Lanka for many years, and the two governments have been “occupied with this essentially humanitarian issue at high levels.” Srivastava said: “There is a common understanding to handle the matter humanely.”
The joint working group, led on the Indian side by the secretary of the Department of Fisheries, is expected to address all issues related to fishing between India and Sri Lanka, including the release of detained fishermen and fishing boats, the modalities of communication between the relevant authorities on the two sides, cooperation in dealing with issues related to the livelihoods of fishing communities and other matters, he said.