The Indian media has reported that India and Sri Lanka have stressed on the need for all fishermen to be treated in a humane manner and that their issues should be prioritized.
India’s IBNS has reported that the third meeting of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on Fisheries was held in New Delhi on March 28-29.
The Sri Lanka delegation was led by Ranjith Uyangoda, Additional Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs of Sri Lanka and the Indian delegation by T.S. Tirumurti, Joint Secretary (BSM), Ministry of External Affairs of India.
The leader of the Sri Lankan delegation had called on Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao on Tuesday.
Both sides, in a joint statement had welcomed the convening of the Joint Working Group on Fisheries, the last meeting of which was held in January 2006 in Colombo. The two sides had reviewed developments since 2006.
Both sides had reportedly reiterated the high priority given by their respective Governments to issues of fishermen and their livelihood. They had stressed the need for all fishermen to be treated in a humane manner.
To ensure the safety and security of fishermen, both sides had agreed that the use of force cannot be justified under any circumstances. The need to respect the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) when fishing was also stressed by the Sri Lankan side.
The Sri Lankan side had informed that the recent violent incidents in January 2011, which resulted in the death of two Indian fishermen, are being further investigated. In that context, the two sides had noted that the Joint Statement on Fishing Arrangements of 26th October 2008 had led to a decrease in violent incidents in 2009-2010.
They had welcomed the Joint Statement issued during the visit of the Foreign Secretary of India to Sri Lanka in January.
The two sides had noted that given the socio-economic and livelihood dimensions to the issue, there was need for enhancing cooperation by building on the agreements reached earlier.
They had agreed on the need to discuss arrangements based on the current situation so as to further strengthen the safety, security and livelihood of the fishermen.
Both sides had also welcomed the visit of a group of Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu to Sri Lanka between 20-23 March. They had called on Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources of Sri Lanka and had also meetings with Minister of Small and Traditional Industries of Sri Lanka and their counterparts from the Northern Province.
Recalling the initiatives taken earlier in August 2010 by the fishermen of both countries, where a Sri Lankan fishermen delegation visited India, both sides had agreed on the need to foster greater understanding between their respective fishermen and fishermen associations.
Noting the invitation extended by the Indian fishermen to their Sri Lankan counterparts, the two sides had agreed that a return visit to India would be important to take this process forward.
Both sides had discussed the various regulatory measures being put in place to manage the fishery resources in their respective waters. They had noted the growing importance of fisheries to the livelihood of the coastal communities in Northern Sri Lanka.
The two sides had agreed that a road map needs to be put in place to ensure resource sustainability, livelihood, safety and security of the fishermen of both countries. Both sides also discussed measures to expedite the release of bona fide detained fishermen from both countries.
The draft Memorandum of Understanding on Development and Cooperation in the field of Fisheries was also discussed and it was decided to continue discussion on the draft.
The Indian side had offered to continue its assistance to the fisheries sector in Sri Lanka, which was welcomed by the Sri Lankan side.