Sri Lanka today announced it will release 61 Indian fishermen held in the country for alleged poaching, days after the two sides agreed to resolve the issue that has become an irritant in bilateral ties.
“As per the arrangements, India is to release 59 Sri Lankans and 3 trawlers. Sri Lanka would release 61 Indian fishermen and 15 boats,” fisheries ministry spokesman Narendra Sri Rajapaksa said.
The development came following direct talks between agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and Sri Lankan minister of fisheries and aquatic resources Rajitha Senaratne in New Delhi last week.
Mr Senaratne was in India for talks on the recurring problem of arrests of each other's fishermen.
Both the sides agreed to appoint a joint committee of senior fisheries officials to hammer out a solution to the issue that has become an irritant in bilateral ties.
So far, both India and Sri Lanka have released 52 fishermen each.
There are still over 250 Indians in Sri Lankan custody for allegedly poaching in Lankan waters while 160 Sri Lankans are held by India, according to official figures.
The announcement came ahead of a 27 January meeting of the joint committee appointed to work out a mechanism to look into the issue so that fishermen, who might have inadvertently crossed the International Maritime Boundary Line, are released in a time-bound manner in future.
Sri Lankan fishermen groups said they will attend the meeting, to be held in Chennai, according to fishing associations spokesman, Mr S P Anthony Muttu.