Following the Sri Lankan Navy’s recent capture of a number of Indian fishermen, the Ministry of External Affairs Thursday said the government is in touch with the neighbouring nation to ensure that the men get consular access and are released soon along with their boats.
Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava told reporters at an online briefing: “We have seen reports about apprehension of 36 Indian fishermen and five of their fishing vessels on December 14 and 15 by the Sri Lankan Navy. The government attaches high priority to this issue and we are in close touch with the government of Sri Lanka through our High Commission in Colombo and the Consulate in Jaffna to verify the information and to ensure consular access and facilitate the early release of the fishermen and their boats.”
The fishermen issue has been a longstanding matter on the bilateral agenda of India and Sri Lanka, Srivastava pointed out.
The two governments have been seized of this “essentially humanitarian matter” at high levels and there exists a common understanding to handle the matter in a humanitarian way, he said.
“There are well established bilateral mechanisms between India and Sri Lanka for discussions and cooperation on the issue of fishermen. Since these could not be convened due to ongoing Covid-19 related restrictions, it has now been mutually agreed to hold a meeting of the bilateral Joint Working Group (JWG) on Fisheries through the virtual format on December 30,” Srivastava said.
“The JWG, which is led on our side by Secretary, Department of Fisheries, is expected to address all the issues relating to the subject of fisheries between India and Sri Lanka including release of apprehended fishermen and fishing boats, modalities of communication between relevant authorities on the two sides, cooperation in dealing with issues related to the livelihood of the fishing communities on both sides and such other matters as are mutually agreed upon,” he said.
To a question on Khalistani separatists defacing Mahatma Gandhi’s statue outside the Indian embassy in Washington DC during a pro-farmer demonstration by Sikh-American youths, Srivastava said the Indian mission has strongly taken this up with US authorities and has sought early investigation as well as action as per the law.
The matter has also been taken up with the US embassy in Delhi and a similar message has been delivered to officials there, he said.
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