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India and Sri Lanka decided on Monday to intensify cooperation on patrolling and to institute periodic interaction between the Coast Guard of the two countries to avert the fisheries crisis between the two countries, India’s High Commission said on Monday.

The two countries held ministerial level talks on fishermen issues in Colombo. Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare of India Radha Mohan Singh and Minister for Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development of Sri Lanka Mahinda Amaraweera attended the talks.

The High Commsison said in a statement that the talks followed the first meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) on fisheries held in New Delhi on Dec. 31, 2016.

“The Ministers exchanged views on possible mechanisms to help find a permanent solution to the fishermen issues. The co-chairs of the JWG briefed the Ministers on the outcome of the first JWG meeting for consideration of the Ministers and further directions to take the process forward.

Both sides agreed to a set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to expedite the release and handing over of fishermen in each other’s custody on completion of respective legal and procedural formalities. The immediate release of the fishermen presently in custody was announced following the ministerial level talks.

As part of the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) agreed to by both sides, an understanding was reached to ensure that there was no physical harm or loss of life while apprehending fishermen by Navy and Coast Guard of the two countries.

It was agreed to explore the possibility of introducing effective tracking systems for the fishing vessels and making the use of onboard communication equipment mandatory.

The Ministers appreciated the efforts taken by the JWG in operationalizing the “Hotline” between Indian and Sri Lankan Coast Guard, which would ensure quick decision making and response.

The next JWG meeting will be held in Colombo in April 2017 to review the progress made in addressing the fishermen issues in a comprehensive manner, ” the statement said. Endit


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