India and Sri Lanka will hold the second round of ministerial-level meeting here next week to find a solution to the vexed fishermen issue, Lankan Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera has said. First round of discussions was held in November in New Delhi with a view to arriving at a permanent solution on the issue. The delegation comprised Amaraweera, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera and other senior officials. The second round is scheduled to be held on January 2, 2017 here, Amaraweera said. Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Radha Mohan Singh is expected to attend the meeting.
It is not yet clear if External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj would attend the meeting as she is recuperating from an operation. "We have held Indian boats for doing illegal fishing here. We have released people while confiscating boats. This has helped us reduce the number of illegal fishing incidents by 50 per cent," Amaraweera said, adding that over 120 boats of Indians indulging in illegal fishing in the Sri Lankan waters are being currently held by Sri Lanka. India and Sri Lanka on November 4 decided to set up a Joint Working Group (JWG) on Fisheries to meet every three months and hold a meeting between the Ministers for Fisheries every six months during the first round of extensive ministerial-level talks held in New Delhi on possible mechanisms to find a permanent solution to the emotive issue of fishermen. There have been several alleged incidents of Sri Lankan Navy personnel firing at Indian fishermen fishing in the Palk Strait and seizing their boats. The Palk Strait, which is a narrow strip of water separating Tamil Nadu from Sri Lanka, is a rich fishing ground for fishermen from both the countries. The fishermen associations of India and Sri Lanka had held talks on the issue here last month where the delegation from the island nation rejected demands for relaxation of norms for fishermen from Tamil Nadu to use fishing trawlers.
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