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Indian-Sri Lankan coast guards to set up hotline to tackle fishermen issue

News Agencies | Updated on: 10 January 2017, 19:42 IST

Aiming to address effectively the vexed issue of Tamil Nadu fishermen being arrested by Sri Lanka, Coast Guards of the two countries will set up a hotline for better coordination between the two martime security forces.

The hotline will be both at the local and the headquarter level, sources said. Sri Lanka will be the second country after Pakistan to have hotline with the Indian Coast Guard.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) proposals between the two coast guards is being examined by the Ministry of Defence and is on an "advanced stage".

The decision to sign an MoU between the two countries was taken during visit of senior officials of Sri Lankan Coast Guard last week.

India is also believed to have told the delegation not to arrest fishermen who accidentally stray into its water due to bad weather.

"The MoU will focus on cooperation in the areas of search and rescue operations, pollution control, sharing of information and setting up of a hotline.

"While one hotline will be set up in the headquarters of the two coast guards, another one will be set up at regional level at Chennai and Northern Command (of Sri Lanka). So smaller issues could be sorted out at the regional level," said a senior Coast Guard official.

At present hotline exists between the coast guards of India and Pakistan wherein the heads of the two maritime security agencies interact on weekly basis to address contentious issues.

For better coordination, a tri-lateral exercise 'Dosti' is also held between the coast guards of Sri Lanka, India and Maldives.

With an aim to find a solution to the vexed issue of fishermen, a Joint Working Group (JWG) was formed last year.

Coast Guard said, as a good will gesture ahead of Pongal and a request made to Sri Lanka, 51 fishermen were released last week.

Today, the Sri Lankan navy also repatriated six Indian fishermen and a fishing boat after it got trapped in Cyclone 'Vardah' last month. The boat was missing since December 16.

The boat, along with the crew, was handed over to the Indian Coast Guard ship Rani Durgavati at the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).

--PTI

First published: 10 January 2017, 19:42 IST
 
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