The issue of fishing will be a key point in the bilateral talks between Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi during their virtual summit on Saturday, according to officials here. Rajapaksa's media office on Saturday said that the prime minister held talks with a large contingent of local fishing organisations on Friday and the issue between the two countries would be a major point of discussion.
The summit is being held on the initiative of Prime Minister Modi who had a telephonic conversation with the newly-appointed Sri Lankan prime minister on August 6 this year. Rajapaksa's office said that the fisher community told the premier that since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Indian authorities no longer prevent their fishermen straying into local waters for poaching. This has caused hardships for the local fishing community.
Fishing by Indians in the Sri Lankan waters has been a recurring problem and has figured at high-level talks between the two neighbours in the past. Rajapaksa assured them that the issue would be taken up with the Indian leader and the Sri Lankan Navy should arrest anyone carrying out poaching in the country's waters, it said.
The interaction between the two leaders is also expected to focus on the full gamut of bilateral engagement inter-alia political, economic, finance, development, defence and security spheres, educational, tourism and cultural as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest, the Sri Lankan foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. Relevant subject ministers and senior officials of both countries will associate the leaders at the summit.
This is the first virtual summit-level interaction by Prime Minister Rajapaksa with a foreign leader since assuming premiership last month. The two leaders are expected to deliberate on a host of issues like ways to further deepen anti-terror cooperation, boost overall defence and trade ties as well as implementation of India's development projects in Sri Lanka.
The long-pending Tamil issue in Sri Lanka is also likely to figure in the talks. India has been pitching for fulfilling the aspirations of the minority Tamil community in the island nation.
Prime Minister Modi visited Sri Lanka twice during the former regime of Maithripala Sirisena from 2015. Both Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa chose India for their first overseas visit after winning the presidential election in November last year.
Sri Lanka waits in anticipation of India's action for a debt moratorium and an additional currency swap from India, said the foreign ministry officials in Colombo.