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* Sri Lanka's Fisheries Minister to visit India next month to discuss fishermen issue
Sat, Dec 14, 2013, 01:50 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Dec 13, Colombo: Sri Lanka's Fisheries and Aquatics Resources Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne will visit New Delhi next month to hold discussions on the fishermen's issue.

The Sri Lankan Minister is expected to meet India's Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar to discuss the nagging issue of fishermen from both sides crossing into each other territories.

Minister Senaratne has told Indian daily The Hindu on Friday that he had received an invitation from India's External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid for the discussions.

"But the dates have not been finalized as yet," Senaratne told The Hindu.

However, he has indicated that the meeting would most probably be held in January.

The urgent need for talks between the two sides has been raised following the arrest of 140 Indian fishermen by Sri Lanka Navy within the last two days.

During Khurshid's recent visit to his Sri Lankan counterpart Minister G.L. Peiris explained that the issue of illegal poaching by Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan waters is a cause for great concern for Sri Lanka.

In a desperate attempt to deter the Indian fishermen crossing the Interactional Maritime Boundary Line and stealing the livelihood of Sri Lankan fishermen, the government of Sri Lanka recently adopted a policy of detaining the Indian fishermen for lengthy terms and confiscating their trawlers.

However, the measure has not deterred the Indian fishermen in hundreds crossing the IMBL into Sri Lankan waters for fishing.

Along with the ministerial-level meeting, the much-awaited Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting is also likely to be held soon, The Hindu reported citing Indian diplomatic sources in Colombo.

A senior official at the Indian mission in Colombo has said that they are also trying to hold a meeting with fishermen of both countries around that time.

Minister Senaratne has earlier pointed out that the Joint Working Group, which was set up by both governments to find long-term solutions to the issue of poaching and expected to meet once in six months, with representatives from both countries, has not met in nearly two years.

Sri Lanka held the last meeting in January 2012 and it's India's turn now to hold the meeting but it was delaying the process, the Minister has said.

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