Enhancing Colombo’s energy security, fishermen issue figure in India-Lanka foreign ministerial talks
New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Monday held “productive” talks with his visiting Sri Lankan counterpart GL Peiris, focusing on steps to enhance Colombo’s energy security, boost bilateral trade and investment, and the contentious fishermen issue.
The talks came days after India extended a USD 500 million credit line to Sri Lanka to help it purchase petroleum products as the island nation has been reeling under a severe foreign exchange and energy crisis.
“Productive talks with Sri Lankan FM G L Peiris. Discussed economic and investment initiatives that will strengthen Sri Lanka at this time. Also focused on additional steps to enhance Sri Lanka’s energy security,” Jaishankar tweeted.
Peiris arrived in Delhi on Sunday on a three-day official visit.
Referring to the fishermen issue, Jaishankar said it was agreed that bilateral mechanisms for it should meet early and that the importance of people-to-people ties through greater connectivity was noted.
“Exchanged views on the fishermen issue and agreed that bilateral mechanisms should meet early. Recognised the importance of greater tourism for economic recovery. Also noted the importance of P2P linkages through greater connectivity,” he said.
The fishermen issue is a contentious one in ties between the two sides.
On January 25, 56 Indian fishermen were released by Sri Lanka.
There have been several alleged incidents in the past of Sri Lankan Navy personnel using force against Indian fishermen in the Palk Strait.
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 countries.
Last week, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said in Rajya Sabha that both sides are in consultation for the early convening of the fifth round of the Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting on fisheries. The JWG is a key platform for discussion on the issue of fishermen.
“We will mark 75 years of our independence and diplomatic relations in a suitable way,” Jaishankar said in another tweet.
Ahead of the talks, Jaishankar said he was “very pleased to welcome” Peiris to India.
India on February 2, extended a USD 500 million credit line to Sri Lanka to help it purchase petroleum products.
The Indian assistance came over two weeks after a virtual meeting between Jaishankar and Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa on January 15.
Last month, the island nation signed a deal with the Sri Lankan chapter of Indian Oil Corporation (LIOC), Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the Joint Venture between LIOC and CPC to redevelop around 75 oil tanks in Trincomalee.
The deal is expected to assist Sri Lanka in the development of Trincomalee as an energy and transport hub to further bolster its energy security.