India hands over 16 fishermen to Sri Lanka

India handed over a batch of Sri Lankan fishermen, who had been subjected to legal proceedings in India for allegedly starying into its water while fishing in the International Maritime Border.

Colombo: India on Wednesday handed over a batch
of Sri Lankan fishermen, who had been subjected to legal
proceedings in India for allegedly starying into its water
while fishing in the International Maritime Border, to
authorities of the country, officials said here.

Narendra Rajapaksa, a senior Fisheries Ministry
official, said the 16 fishermen on three trawlers were handed
over to the Sri Lankan Navy. Their jail terms ended on January
31, 2011.
India had earlier released 94 Sri Lankan fishermen and
21 boats.

Fishermen of both nations straying into each other`s
waters have been a major issue between the two South Asian
neighbours.

India had in January accused the Sri Lankan Navy of
firing at Indian fishermen and killing two of them in two
separate incidents.
Meanwhile, President Mahinda Rajapaksa dismissed
suggestions that Sri Lanka and India are currently involved in
a spat over the fishermen issue.

In an interaction with the media yesterday, Rajapaksa
described the issue as a humanitarian problem.

"The poor fishermen chase after their catch, they have
no idea of maritime boundaries," Rajapaksa said and expressed
that hope that the issue can be amicably resolved.

He said the forthcoming meeting of the Indo-Lanka
Joint Working Group would discuss the issue.

"This is not a problem which came up recently. Our
fishermen are now able to do deep sea fishing which they
couldn`t do during the war time (with LTTE). So it is now
being seen as it has become a new problem," the President said

He also dismissed reports that Sri Lankan Navy
personnel were firing at Indian fishermen.

He said the accusations were "baseless" as he was
personally aware that the Navy had not fired at the Indian
fishermen.

The Sri Lankan president said that meetings between
fishermen associations of the two countries would be
facilitated soon.

"This is part of the government strategy to end the
problem," the president said, adding that no ad-hoc solutions
would work.

PTI

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