The Centre has asked the Andhra Pradesh government to expedite the release of remaining 25 Sri Lankan fishermen detained in the state.
The Centre’s directive comes after a decision between India and Sri Lanka to release all fishermen arrested in each other countries for illegal fishing in respective territorial waters. The process of release has begun in both countries.
So far, the two countries have released 52 fishermen each. There are still 240 Indians in Sri Lankan custody, while 160 Sri Lankans are held by India, especially in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Odisha.
In a letter to the Andhra Pradesh government, External Affairs Ministry said that out of 31 Sri Lankan fishermen detained in the state, orders have already been issued for six of them.
“However, the status of remaining 25 fishermen in custody is unclear. I would be grateful if steps are taken urgently to release the remaining fishermen. This is an extremely important issue impacting the bilateral relationship between India and Sri Lanka,” it said.
According to sources, the process of release of Sri Lankan fishermen held in Andhra Pradesh jails has been delayed as the court proceedings have begun in most cases.
With release of all fishermen from both sides, India and Sri Lanka want to ensure conducive environment for the forthcoming meeting of the Fishermen’s Associations from the two countries in Chennai.
The meeting, which was originally scheduled on January 20, has been postponed to January 27 as the Sri Lankan government had sought more time from India to finalise its representatives.
In a meeting held last week between Sri Lanka’s minister of fisheries Rajitha Senaratne and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, the two nations had agreed to set up a joint-committee to look into time-bound release of fishermen.
This committee would also finalise the draft memorandum of understanding (MoU) to be signed between two countries for setting up of an institutional mechanism to resolve the fishermen issue and for development of the fishery sector.