India, Sri Lanka to release 20 fishermen each

New Delhi, Jan 13 : India and Sri Lanka are to release 20 of each other's fishermen, marking the beginning of a reciprocal process to tide over an issue that has caused tension in bilateral ties.

The gesture comes ahead of the Tamil festival of Pongal, and was announced here by the external affairs ministry spokesperson.

"As a goodwill measure prior to the Fishermen's Association meeting to be held Jan 20, an understanding has been reached between the government of India and the government of Sri Lanka to release fishermen in custody prior to the talks. On our side, government of India is in touch with the state governments of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in this regard," a statement said.

The statement said: "Government of India attaches the highest importance to the safety, security and welfare of Indian fishermen. The government has worked assiduously to secure the release of Indian fishermen who are apprehended by the Sri Lankan authorities on charges of fishing in Sri Lankan waters. Similarly, Sri Lankan fishermen have also been apprehended by our authorities for straying into Indian waters.

"Keeping in mind the humanitarian and livelihood dimensions of the fishermen's issue, government had reached an understanding though a joint statement with the government of Sri Lanka Oct 26 2008, to put in place practical arrangements to deal with bona fide Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).

"Further, in the last meeting of the joint working group on fisheries which met in January 2012, both sides had agreed to hold a meeting of Fishermen's Associations. Fishermen's Associations have been meeting since 2004. The next such meeting is scheduled to be held in Chennai Jan 20, 2014."

--IANS (Posted on 13-01-2014)

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