COLOMBO, June 1, 2014 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s navy said Sunday it had seized 29 Indian fishermen, the first arrests since President Mahinda Rajapakse and India’s new premier held talks on resolving the thorny issue of poaching.
The navy arrested the Indians along with six trawlers off the island’s northwest coast on Sunday, a navy statement said.
“The arrested fishermen and the trawlers were handed over to the officials of the department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources… for legal action,” it said. It was the first arrest since Rajapakse ordered the release of all Indian fishermen from Sri Lankan jails as a goodwill gesture marking the swearing-in of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Sri Lanka did not say how many were freed last week, but official sources said there were only five Indian fishermen in custody at the time for alleged drug-smuggling. They had been languishing in jail since 2011.
During their bilateral talks in New Delhi, Rajapakse and Modi agreed to continue official-level talks for a permanent solution to poaching which had become a major irritant in relations.
The two countries are separated by a narrow strip of sea known as the Palk Strait which is also a rich fishing ground.