Modi and Sirisena agree:
No fishermen should be kept in custody either by India or SL

Sirisena impresses Indian media



by S. VENKAT NARAYAN, Our Special Correspondent


NEW DELHI. Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena returned to Colombo on Friday night after a visit to India diplomats described as successful.


"It was a successful visit for three reasons", Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India Austin Fernando told The Sunday Island here today.


He elaborated thus: "Our President came to attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second swearing-in ceremony – an auspicious moment. His meeting with Mr. Modi and his team went off very well. It was friendly and productive. And the visit ended with the President’s declaration that Mr. Modi will go to Sri Lanka next Sunday."


The President was accompanied by Ministers Rauff Hakeem and Mano Ganesan, while lawmaker Arumugam Thondaman arrived here on his own. They all attended Modi’s swearing-in at a spectacular ceremony in the sprawling forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan (President’s Palace) in sweltering heat on Thursday evening.


While Fernando accompanied Sirisena to the bilateral meeting with the Indian leader, Modi’s team included his National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Taranjit Sandhu and Dinesh Patnaik, Additional  Secretary (Indian Ocean Region) in the External Affairs Ministry.


The two leaders had a one-on-one meeting after the team-level talks.


The Sunday Island understands that Sirisena raised the issue of some Sri Lankan fishermen being kept in Indian prisons for illegal fishing in Indian waters. Modi responded by suggesting that no fishermen should be kept in custody either by India or Sri Lanka. And both sides agreed.


A senior Indian official said big business houses are involved in deploying large fishing vessels which had been indulging in bottom-trawling for years and, in the process, destroying the coast lines of both India and Sri Lanka. While Sri Lanka has banned bottom-trawling, India has only "prohibited" it with no legal repercussions.


India has been spending millions on training Tamil Nadu fishermen in deep-sea fishing to wean them away from bottom-trawling. But much more needs to be done to stop big business houses to put an end to the practice of bottom-trawling, the official opined.


The highlight of Sirisena’s visit was his hour-long interaction with Indian and foreign media, attended by about a hundred print and television journalists. But the interaction was not a part of his original program.


While driving from the airport to The Taj Palace Hotel on Thursday, High Commissioner Austin Fernando suggested the presser to Sirisena after receiving several requests for interviews. The President agreed.


Immediately, Nirmala Paranavitana Fonseka, Minister (Press) in the High Commission, got into the act and, with help from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of South Asia, put together a well-attended interaction with the global media. Fernando conducted the proceedings.  


The President spoke in Sinhalese, and was ably translated into English by Pabodha Senaratne, his brilliant interpreter. His answers to pointed questions were lucid and precise, and he spoke with confidence and answered all questions without any fumbling.


The media men went away duly impressed. Since New Delhi-based foreign journalists cover Sri Lanka as a part of their "beat," they said such interactions with visiting Sri Lankan dignitaries are a great help.


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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