India fishermen delegation to visit Sri Lanka

New Delhi, Feb 26 (PTI) With Indian fishermen facingproblems along the Sri Lankan border, Government today decidedthat a delegation of fishermen associations from Tamil Naduwill visit Colombo for discussions with their counterparts.

The decision was taken at a meeting convened byForeign Secrertary Nirupama Rao with officials of variousdepartments like the Defence Ministry, Coast Guard and theTamil Nadu Government.

The meeting, in which Tamil Nadu was represented byChief Secretary S Malathi and the Fisheries Secretary,"emphasised that resorting to firing and use of force in suchsituations as had happened in January 2011 had nojustification".

"Satisfaction was expressed at the release of the 136Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Government," an officialstatement from the MEA said. Sri Lankan Navy had apprehendedthese fishermen last week after they crossed into its waters.

India had strongly condemned the use of force againstits fishermen and last month dispatched Rao to Colombo toregister its strong protest with the Sri Lankan Government.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had on Wednesdayasked the fishermen to be "conscious of the sensitivities" onthe Sri Lankan side and their fishermen.

The meeting, which was also attended by the DirectorGeneral of Coast Guard, welcomed the convening of the Indo-Lanka Joint Working Group on Fishing proposed for March, whichwould also discuss the proposed draft MoU on development andcooperation in the field of fisheries.

"It was decided that the Governments of India andTamil Nadu would encourage a delegation of local fishermen''sassociations from Tamil Nadu to visit Sri Lanka in March tomeet with their Sri Lankan counterparts," the statement said.

The meeting also noted that such contacts have provedto be mutually beneficial and underlined the need forstrengthening them.

During the meeting, the Tamil Nadu Government referredto the ongoing efforts to inform fishermen about the need toobserve security and safety parameters while engaging infishing activities in the waters between India and Sri Lanka.

The meeting also focussed on measures to furtheraugment security in the vicinity of the International MaritimeBoundary Line.

During the meeting, it was also decided that the TamilNadu Government will finalise the necessary arrangements, inconsultation with the Centre, to facilitate the participationof Indian pilgrims at the St Anthony''s festival at KachchativuIsland.

"The welfare, safety and security of our fishermenwill continue to receive the highest priority of both theCentral and state governments," the statement said.

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