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Indo-SL Fishermen Meeting on January 20

Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen will finally sit down across the table on January 20 and discuss the thorny issue of fishing rights, prior to which all fishermen in the custody of each other’s country will have to be released.

This was conveyed by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to a delegation of National Fishworkers Forum from Puduchery, who were escorted by Rajya Sabha member Mani Shankar Aiyar. “He (Khurshid) told us that the meeting of Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen will be held on Jan 20 in Chennai, with the concurrence of the Tamil Nadu government,” chairman of National Fishworkers Forum, M Ilango told Express.

But, he said, Khurshid also informed that all fishermen in custody of Sri Lankan and Indian governments will be released “before the talks”. “Also, the boats will also be released, but in a phased manner,” he added.

Currently, over 200 Indian fishermen and more than 70 boats were in Sri Lankan custody. Sri Lanka has been claiming that Indian fishermen regularly crossed the international maritime border to fish illegally in its territory, thereby affecting the livelihood of Sri Lankan fisherfolk. However, Indian fishermen while charging that SL naval personnel are high-handed claim that they have traditional fishing rights.

While Khurshid was categorical about the date of the meeting, he didn’t announce it publicly. In fact, before meeting with the fishworkers forum late Friday evening, Khurshid also met separately with a delegation of fishermen from TN, led by DMK parliamentary leader T.R. Baalu, earlier in the day.

After this meeting, he told waiting media persons that “meeting would be held in India by the third week of January” and “maybe convened in Chennai or New  Delhi.” The dialogue between the fishermen associations is also a necessary prelude to the meeting of the joint working group on fisheries,’’ Khushid said. (Courtesy The New Indian Express)

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