“Such contacts have been mutually beneficial”

The Centre and the Tamil Nadu government would encourage a visit to Sri Lanka by delegations of fishermen from Tamil Nadu next month to interact with their counterparts there. This would be a measure to address the problems being faced by Indian fishermen, said an official release from the External Affairs Ministry issued on Saturday.

The decision to encourage the interaction came at a meeting convened by Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao to discuss matters related to fishing in the waters between India and Sri Lanka, in the backdrop of recent developments concerning the violent incidents, the release said.

“Such contacts have proved to be mutually beneficial and should be strengthened.”

The meeting, attended by Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary, among others, welcomed the proposed meeting of the Joint Working Group on Fishing in March. The proposed draft Memorandum of Understanding on development and cooperation in fisheries would also be discussed.

The Tamil Nadu government spoke of the ongoing efforts to inform their fishermen about the need to observe security and safety parameters while fishing in the waters between India and Sri Lanka.

Measures to further augment security in the vicinity of the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) were also discussed. Last week, the Navy said it was tasked to come up with measures to resolve the problem. Also being considered is the installation of physical buoys across the 80-mile strip, lighthouse signals and caution beeps to fishermen through mobile phones to Indian fishermen straying across the IMBL.

The Director-General of Coast Guard, Secretary (Animal Husbandry & Fisheries) of Tamil Nadu, and officials from the Ministries of Defence and External Affairs also attended the meeting.

While satisfaction was expressed at the release of the 136 Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan government, the meeting emphasised that resorting to firing and the use of force in such situations, as had happened in January 2011, had no justification.

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