Sharad Pawar and Rajitha Senaratne will discuss the fishermen issue in New Delhi

Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar, whose portfolio includes Fisheries, and Sri Lanka’s Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne will meet in New Delhi in January to discuss fisheries’ conflict between the neighbours, it is reliably learnt.

Mr. Senaratne told The Hindu on Friday he had received an invitation from External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, who was here last month for the Commonwealth Summit, “but the dates have not been finalised as yet.” However, he confirmed that the meeting would be held mostly in January.

Along with the ministerial-level meeting, the much-awaited Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting is also likely to be held, according to Indian diplomatic sources in Colombo. The JWG was set up with representatives from the Foreign and Fisheries Ministries, Navy officials and experts to work together to arrive at a long-term solution to the contentious issue of illegal fishing, troubling both nations.

Indian fishermen — primarily from Tamil Nadu — allegedly engaging in illegal fishing has been a recurrent concern over the last few years, with the Sri Lankan Navy periodically arresting them on charges of crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) that demarcates fishing zones of India and Sri Lanka.

Arrests

Earlier this week, as many as 140 fishermen from different parts of Tamil Nadu were arrested in the Sri Lankan waters off the island nation’s north and north-eastern coasts.

The JWG meeting was last held in January 2012 in Colombo, followed by a long wait for its next session that India had to host. “We are also trying to hold a meeting with fishermen of both countries around that time. Tamil Nadu has expressed some positive signs in this matter,” a senior official at the Indian mission told The Hindu.

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