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India, Sri Lanka say forward movement on issue of fishermen

India, Sri Lanka say forward movement on issue of fishermen

Colombo: India and Sri Lanka Monday said they had made "forward" movement on resolving the "very sensitive" issue of fishermen as External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid sought meaningful devolution of powers to facilitate speedy reconciliation in Tamil-inhabited areas.

Khurshid, on his first visit here after assuming office, met his Sri Lankan counterpart G L Peiris at the Ministry of External Affairs here for wide-ranging bilateral talks.

"We discussed the very sensitive issue of livelihoods of fishermen...We have found a way of moving forward, now that there is agreement on both sides that our fishermen's representatives will meet quickly and find a way among themselves in a fair and rational manner" to resolve the issue, Khurshid said after the talks.

Scores of Indian fishermen, including 112 from Tamil Nadu alone, are currently being held in Sri Lankan prisons. Dozens of their boats too have been seized.

During a joint news conference with Peiris, Khurshid also called for meaningful devolution of powers to provinces, including Tamil-inhabited areas in the north.

"We hope that successful culmination of elections to the Northern Province will usher in a new beginning towards a better future for the people in the north," he said.

The Tamil National Alliance swept the recent polls in the Northern Province, winning 30 of the 36 seats in the local council.

Earlier, Khurshid said India has been "consistent in calling for an early political settlement and national reconciliation through meaningful devolution of powers". This will ensure equality, justice, dignity and self-respect for all Sri Lankan citizens, including the Tamil minority.

Khurshid said the two sides also reviewed progress in implementing Indian-aided projects for internally displaced persons (IDPs), particularly housing projects and schemes for developing railway infrastructure in the north and south.

Two agreements were signed in the presence of Peiris and Khurshid at the Presidential Secretariat - one on the 500-MW Sampur Thermal Power Project and an MoU for technical assistance for a 10-year national plan for a trilingual Sri Lanka.

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