Sri Lanka frees 16 Indian fishermen ahead of Ranil’s visit

Colombo/New Delhi, Sep 13 (IANS) Sri Lanka has decided to set free 16 Indian fishermen as a goodwill gesture ahead of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s visit to India beginning Monday.

The Indian fishermen were arrested after they allegedly intruded into Sri Lankan waters.

The fisherman’s associations in Tamil Nadu had urged the Sri Lankan government to release the 16 fishermen.

The Sri Lanka Prime Minister’s Office said on Sunday that it was decided to release the fishermen in order to ensure that the strong friendship between India and Sri Lanka is maintained, said the Colombo Gazette.

Wickremesinghe’s office said the government also took note of the request made by the Indian fisherman’s associations.

This will be Wickremesinghe’s first official overseas visit since being appointed prime minister last month and he says he considers it important to visit India first, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

The Sri Lankan government has also said that the proposed Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between Sri Lanka and India will not be discussed during Wickremesinghe’s visit to India.

Wickremesinghe is to discuss domestic issues as well as regional security with the Indian leaders, the daily said, quoting the Prime Minister’s Office.

Wickremesinghe is to meet President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, among others, during his three-day visit.

Meanwhile, Minister of International Trade and Investment Malik Samarawickreme denied reports that the CEPA agreement will be discussed and signed during the visit.

The signing of the CEPA agreement has remained stalled over the years as both sides had failed to reach a consensus on several issues.

Samarawickreme said that before signing such an agreement there is need to look at Sri Lanka’s requirements today.

The minister said be it an agreement with India or any other country, the new Sri Lankan government will ensure it meets the interests of the Sri Lankan people, the Colombo Gazette said.

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