A consensus has been reached by Sri Lanka and India to set up a Joint Working Group on Fisheries to resolve the dispute on fishing rights in the Palk Strait. The decision was arrived at an India and Sri Lanka Ministerial level talks on fishermen issues held in New Delhi recently.
Foreign Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, Parliamentarian M.A.Sumanthiran, and India’s Minister of State for Road Transport, Highways & Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan and Member of Parliament M.A. Sumanthiran held talks with External Affairs Minister Mrs. Sushma Swaraj and Minister of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Radha Mohan Singh in New Delhi.
According to a joint statement, the delegations would include representatives from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, the Coast Guards and Navies of both countries. The 1st Ministerial Meeting would be held on January 02, 2017 in Colombo. The two sides agreed for the Joint Working Group on Fisheries to meet every three months and a meeting between the Ministers for Fisheries every six months, a joint statement said.
The Terms of Reference for the Joint Working Group (JWG) would include (i) expediting the transition towards ending the practice of bottom trawling at the earliest, (ii) working out the modalities for the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for handing over of apprehended fishermen, and (iii) ascertaining possibilities for cooperation on patrolling. The issue of the release of detained fishing vessels will be discussed at the first JWG meeting. Both Governments agreed on the setting up a hotline between the two Coast Guards.
There was support for expediting the provision of communication tracking sets to the fishermen. Both Governments agreed to the request by the Fishermen Associations that there should be no violence and no loss of life in the handling of fishermen by the Navies and Coast Guards of the two countries. They agreed to encourage the Fishermen Associations of the two countries to meet every six months to take further their dialogue from the meeting held on November 2, 2016 in New Delhi.