Sri Lanka releases all 54 Indian fishermen arrested this week

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Colombo, Mar 27 (PTI) Sri Lanka has released all 54 Indian fishermen arrested this week for allegedly poaching in the country's territorial waters, Indian officials confirmed on Saturday.

The Indian official sources here said that 40 of them were released on Friday and the remaining 14 have been released this morning.

The 54 Indian fishermen were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy on March 24 at two different locations in the north and northeastern seas.

The Navy also seized their five trawlers.

Upon their arrest, the Indian High Commission here said that they were providing consular assistance to the arrested fishermen.

It said the fishermen's issue needed to be treated in a humanitarian manner. The Indian High Commission in a statement said the bilateral mechanisms were being utilised to see an expeditious settlement of the issue.

Fishermen from both countries are arrested frequently for inadvertently trespassing into each other's waters. The fishermen issue has become a major irritant in bilateral ties.

In January, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar visited Sri Lanka, he met with Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda and raised the fishermen issue and reviewed bilateral cooperation in fisheries.

'We look forward to the early return of our fishermen from Sri Lanka,' Jaishankar had said.

Later, a three-member committee was appointed by the Sri Lankan government which will make recommendations on measures to stop poaching by Indian fishermen inside the country's waters after four people were killed when an Indian trawler capsized after colliding with a Sri Lankan Navy vessel. PTI Corr NSA AKJ NSA NSA