‘India committed to resolve fishermen’s issues along with Sri Lanka’ | Daily News
JWG Fourth Meeting :

‘India committed to resolve fishermen’s issues along with Sri Lanka’

The Indian Fisheries Secretary said that the Indian side remains committed to working constructively with Sri Lanka to address the issues related to fishermen and their livelihoods in a humanitarian manner and in line with past understandings.

The India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group (JWG) Fourth Meeting on fisheries was held virtually on December 30. The Indian delegation was led by Fisheries Ministry Secretary Dr. Rajeev Ranjan. The other members included senior representatives from the Fisheries Ministry, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, External Affairs Ministry, Home Affairs Ministry, Tamil Nadu Government, Puducherry Government, Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard.

The Sri Lankan delegation was led by Fisheries , Ministry Secretary R.M.I. Rathnayake. The other members included senior officials from the Foreign Ministry, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Department, Navy, Coast Guard and the Attorney General’s Department.

The meeting covered the issues related to fishermen and fishing boats, which have been in discussion between India and Sri Lanka for many years. During the Virtual Bilateral Summit between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa held on September 26, they agreed to ‘continue engagement to address the issues related to fishermen through regular consultation and bilateral channels’.

The Indian delegation leader called on the Sri Lankan side to ensure early release of 40 fishermen and six boats that the Sri Lanka Navy apprehended recently and till such time, to facilitate consular access and assistance. The Indian side said the need for releasing all fishing boats in Sri Lanka’s custody in line with the commitment given by the Sri Lanka’s President during his visit to India in November last year.

The two sides exchanged views on cooperation between the Navy and the Coast Guards of both countries in patrolling between the Coast Guards and related operational matters, cooperation in preservation of marine environment and the schedule for the JWG fifth meeting. The Indian side conveyed its sincere determination to work in a constructive spirit with the Sri Lankan side for convening an early meeting of the Fisheries Ministers of the two countries.

They agreed that the convening of the JWG virtually to tide over the restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic reflected the common desire to use the bilateral mechanisms and work constructively to address fishermen’s issues.

Indian Government Fisheries Secretary highlighted the initiatives being taken by India under the new Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana and other schemes and governments of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry to diversify and reduce fishing pressure in the Palk Bay. He informed initiatives taken for diversification into deep-sea fishing especially by fishermen of the Palk Bay, infrastructure created to facilitate deep-sea fishing, promoting alternative livelihood through seaweed cultivation, mariculture and varieties of aquaculture activities.

The JWG First Meeting was held on December 31, 2016 in New Delhi. The second was held in Colombo on April 7, 2017, while the thirdwas held in New Delhi on October 13, 2017.