India and Sri Lanka have decided to set up a coast guard hotline to avoid disputes over fishermen entering each other's territorial waters, The Indian Express reported on Sunday. A joint statement announced that the decision was taken during a bilateral meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her counterpart Mangala Samaraweera in New Delhi.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka has rejected New Delhi's proposal for a three-year grace period to stop current illegal fishing practices by Indian fishermen in the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Strait, The Sunday Times reported. Sri Lanka's Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said India's request to release the confiscated boats and to grant 80 days of fishing in Sri Lankan waters was also requested, according to the Sri Lankan newspaper.
The statement said the representatives discussed ways to finds a "permanent solution" to the problem of fishermen straying into each other's territorial waters. The countries agreed to the formation of a Joint Working Group on Fisheries that will meet every three months and a meeting between the Ministers for Fisheries every six months. The statement said, "The delegations would include representatives from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, the Coast Guards and Navies of both countries. The first ministerial meeting would be held on January 2, 2017, in Colombo.”
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena is in the country to attend the global conference on tobacco control. The problem of fishermen from either country straying into each other’s waters has long dogged the two nations.