Nirupama Rao discusses fishermen killings with Lankan Govt.

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New Delhi, Jan 31 (ANI): Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao has expressed New Delhi's deep concern over the recent violent incidents in waters between India and Sri Lanka, which had resulted in the tragic death of two Indian fishermen.

Rao, who is currently on a two-day visit to Sri Lanka, stressed that these incidents should be fully investigated and all steps taken to prevent their recurrence in future.

Foreign Secretary Rao called on Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Professor G.L. Peiris on Monday.

Nirupama Rao also met Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Foreign Secretary C.R. Jayasinghe.

The Sri Lankan authorities emphasized that it is the consistent policy of Sri Lanka to treat in a humanitarian manner all fishermen, including those from the Indian fishing community, who cross into Sri Lanka waters.

In a joint statement, Colombo said: "Given the very close bilateral relationship between the two countries, any development which impacts on the well-being of the Indian fishing community pursuing their livelihoods in the waters between the two countries, is of the utmost concern to Sri Lanka. The Government of Sri Lanka, is therefore, committed to ascertaining the facts behind the incidents, the Ministry of External Affairs reports."

While continuing with further inquiries, the Sri Lankan authorities have requested that additional information be made available by the Indian side. Both sides agreed that the use of force cannot be justified under any circumstances, the statement further said.

The two sides noted that the Joint Statement on Fishing Arrangements of October 26, 2008, which had put in place practical arrangements to deal with bona fide fishermen crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL), had led to a decrease in incidents.

They agreed on the need to discuss arrangements based on the current situation so as to strengthen the safety and security of the fishermen.

Accordingly, it was decided that the next meeting of the Joint Working Group on Fishing would be convened at an early date, which would, inter-alia, address various issues relating to fishing by the two sides.

The Joint Working Group would also address the proposed Memorandum of Understanding on development and cooperation in the field of fisheries.

It was decided as well to enhance and promote contacts between the fishermen's associations on both sides, since such contacts have proved to be mutually beneficial. (ANI)

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