India and Sri Lanka exchange fishermen at sea

An Indian navy vessel handed over 52 fishermen to Sri Lanka on Monday India and Sri Lanka have exchanged dozens of fishermen who were jailed for straying across the maritime boundary.

The handover was done at sea, in a sign of easing tensions between the two neighbouring countries.

The Indian navy handed over 52 fishermen to Sri Lanka, while 51 Indians went the other way.

One Indian remains in hospital in Sri Lanka and 236 others are still detained there. Some 152 Sri Lankan fishermen remain in India.

Thursday’s repatriation comes ahead of 20 January talks between the two sides, and more releases are expected to follow.

The BBC’s Charles Haviland in Colombo says a bilateral fisheries committee of six people is now expected to meet regularly.

Attacks and accusations of poaching by fishermen have continued to plague relations between the countries.

In 2011, the Sri Lankan authorities arrested 136 Indian fishermen who they accused of fishing in their waters. The men were only released after a series of diplomatic meetings.

Villagers in southern India also accused the Sri Lankan navy of killing two Indian fishermen that year.

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