In­dia, Sri Lanka sign pact to end fisher cri­sis

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In­dia and Sri Lanka have agreed to work to­wards end­ing bot­tom trawl­ing by In­dian fisher, set up pro­ce­dures to repa­tri­ate ar­rested fish­er­men and pa­trol to­gether. The agree­ment, signed by ex­ter­nal af­fairs min­is­ter Sushma Swaraj and her vis­it­ing Sri Lankan coun­ter­part Man­gala Sa­ma­raweera, also pro­vides for a joint work­ing group (JWG) and a min­is­te­rial meet­ing ev­ery few months on the fish­er­men is­sue that has af­fected bi­lat­eral ties. The agree­ment sets the tone a day be­fore Sri Lankan Pres­i­dent, Maithri­pala Sirisena ar­rives in In­dia for a day.

A joint state­ment said the first min­is­te­rial meet­ing would be held on Jan­uary 2, 2017 in Colombo. The JWG would “in­clude rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the min­istries of for­eign af­fairs, the coast guards and navies of both coun­tries”. The coast guards of the two coun­tries would set up hot­lines for in­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

The joint state­ment laid out the terms of ref­er­ence for the JWG. They would in­clude “ex­pe­dit­ing the tran­si­tion to­wards end­ing the prac­tice of bot­tom trawl­ing at the ear­li­est; work­ing out the modal­i­ties for the stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dures for hand­ing over of ap­pre­hended fish­er­men; and as­cer­tain­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties for co­op­er­a­tion on pa­trolling”. Fish­er­men’s as­so­ci­a­tions from both sides have been asked to meet ev­ery six months. The state­ment said: “Both gov­ern­ments agreed to the re­quest by the fish­er­men’s as­so­ci­a­tions that there should be no loss of life in the han­dling of fish­er­men by the navies and coast guards of the two coun­tries.” This week, a 15-mem­ber fish­er­men’s del­e­ga­tion from Tamil Nadu met a 10-mem­ber group from north­ern Sri Lanka af­ter a year and a half. The talks were in­con­clu­sive.

Sri Lankan fish­ing boats.

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