New Delhi/Colombo: Ahead of External Affairs Minister SM Krishna`s visit to Colombo, India and Sri Lanka have agreed to repatriate genuine fishermen held in each other`s territory and will also expedite negotiations for a pact to jointly develop fisheries.
The fourth meeting of the India-Sri Lanka joint working group on fisheries was held in Colombo Friday-Saturday.
The Sri Lankan delegation was led by Kshenuka Senewiratne, additional secretary in Sri Lanka`s External Affairs Ministry of Sri Lanka and the Indian delegation by Harsh Vardhan Shringla, joint secretary in charge of Sri Lanka in the External Affairs Ministry.
The 11-member Indian delegation included representatives from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, and a host of agencies, including the Indian Coast Guard.
"They also discussed measures for the expeditious release of bonafide fishermen from both countries. The need to respect the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) was stressed by the Sri Lankan side," a joint statement said on Sunday.
The two sides held discussions on a memorandum of understanding on development and cooperation in the field of fisheries and agreed to work towards concluding the same at an early date, the statement said.
Underlining the need for conservation of marine resources and protection of marine ecology, the two sides agreed to the joint development of fisheries and marine resources in the Palk Bay area and the Gulf of Mannar.
The issue of fishermen straying into each other`s waters has become a sensitive issue in bilateral ties. Against this backdrop, both India and Sri Lanka have rejected the use of force and encouraged fishermen`s associations of both countries to meet and built trust. A Sri Lankan fishermen delegation will be visiting India later this year.
The issue of fishermen`s safety will also figure in discussions Krishna will have with Sri Lankan leaders when he goes to the neighboring country on Monday on a three-day visit.
Krishna is expected to hold wide-ranging talks with his Sri Lankan counterpart GL Peiris and call on President Mahinda Rajapaksa, government sources said.
In his discussions, Krishna is expected to reiterate the imperative need to find a lasting political solution to the decades-old ethnic issue that has been a source of conflict and instability in Sri Lanka.