New Delhi: In a significant move reflecting renewed vigour in bilateral ties, India and Sri Lankan today agreed to “re-engage” on repatriation of refugees from India as both countries held “substantive” talks on a raft of crucial matters including political reconciliation process and the sticky fishermen issue.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Sri Lankan counterpart Mangala Samaraweera, during their over three-hour-long talks, reviewed the entire expanse of bilateral ties and explored ways to further strengthen cooperation in various areas.
They also decided to work on repatriation of Tamil refugees to Sri Lanka who had fled during the civil war that started in 1990s. According to official figures, more than 100,000 Sri Lankan refugees are in Tamil Nadu, out of which some 68,000 are housed in over 100 government-run camps.
Newly elected Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, who dethroned Mahinda Rajapaksa from his 10-year rule after a bitter Presidential poll, has already indicated that he wants to have a closer relation with New Delhi. Samaraweera has chosen India for his first foreign trip after assuming charge.
On the fishermen issue, the Sri Lanka Minister conveyed that they were working on a modus operandi for boats of Indian firshermen. Approximately 87 boats of Indian fishermen are in custody of Sri Lankan authorities.
Samaraweera assured of a quick solution on the issue.
Both the leaders agreed that it was time for fishermen associations from both the countries to engage and find a solution to the issue.
“Today's talks have been marked by warmth, mutual respect and understanding between India and Sri Lanka and the substantive outcomes demonstrate the desire of both countries to give a boost to the ties,” Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Syed Akbaruddin told reporters. He said date and venue for a meeting of all stakeholders on the fishermen issue is being finalised.
“The talks included areas of cooperation on political and economic spehere, the political reconciliation process in Sri Lanka and efforts of the new government in this regard,” said the Spokesperson.
Both the leaders also discussed Sirisena's proposed visit to India. It will be his first overseas visit after becoming President.