India, Lanka to find 'innovative' solution to fishermen issue

India has invited Sri Lankan fisheries minister to visit the country and Colombo has accepted the invitation.

PTI| Last Updated: Feb 05, 2016, 22:12 PM IST

Colombo: India and Sri Lanka on Friday agreed to find an "innovative and lasting solution" to the fishermen issue, a major irritant in the bilateral ties, as the foreign ministers of the two countries reviewed the progress made in various sectors like defence, aviation and trade.

The two countries also signed MoUs in education and health sectors after visiting External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Lankan counterpart Mangala Samaraweera co-chaired the 9th Indo-Lanka Joint Commission meeting here.

The two sides also agreed that Sri Lankan fisheries minister Mahinda Amaraweera would travel to India to hold talks to resolve the fishermen issue.
"There was an agreement that we need to find an innovative and lasting solution to this issue," said External Affairs Ministry Joint Secretary Renu Pall.

"The fishermen issues was discussed by the two ministers. They talked about the intricacies involved," she said.

India has invited Sri Lankan fisheries minister to visit the country and Colombo has accepted the invitation, officials said.

The fishermen issue continues to be a major irritant in the Indo-Lanka ties. Sri Lanka accuses Indian fishermen of straying into its territorial waters, while the latter maintain they are only fishing in their traditional areas, especially around Katchatheevu, an islet ceded to Colombo in 1974.

Though the fishermen's associations of the two sides are in regular touch with each other, they have not been able to reach a mutually-acceptable solution to end this problem.

India maintains that the fishermen issue has a socio-economic dimensions, livelihood and humanitarian dimension and wants a long term solution to the problem.

The Joint Commission meeting which lasted for more than two hours discussed issues such as economic cooperation, trade, power and energy, technical and maritime cooperation, social, cultural and educational matters, science and technology, defence cooperation, health, civil aviation, tourism and people-to-people contact.

Under the MoUs that were signed today, India would help Sri Lanka in renovating 27 schools in the northern province. The second MoU is on building a surgical ward and supplying medical equipment to the Batticaloa Teaching Hospital in the East.

Sri Lanka also proposed partnership in setting up Special Economic Zone in Trincomalee and increase cooperation in the aviation sector.