On Tuesday, a Sri Lankan court ordered the release of 56 Indian fishers held for allegedly fishing in the island nation’s territorial seas, a decision that frees all remaining Indian fishermen jailed in the country’s jails.
In mid-December, the fishers captured by the Sri Lankan Navy in the waters south of Mannar were ordered released by a court on the northern Jaffna peninsula.
In a tweet, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that they applaud the efforts of High Commissioner Gopal Baglay and his staff in achieving the release.
The Sri Lankan government and Indian diplomatic sources verified the release, noting that there are no more Indian fishers in the island nation’s custody as of Tuesday.
The court ruling ordering the release of the fishers came as Indian officials asked Sri Lanka to free them on humanitarian grounds in the context of ongoing economic aid discussions.
India announced an economic rescue package for Sri Lanka this month to assist its southern neighbour in dealing with its worst foreign exchange crisis.
The problem of fishermen came up in discussions earlier this month between Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa and External Affairs Minister Jaishankar.
Last month, India voiced alarm about the incarceration of 68 of its fishermen from Tamil Nadu by Sri Lankan authorities, claiming that the subject of their “early release” had been raised with the island nation.
The issue of fishers continues to be an irritant in India-Sri Lanka relations.
There have been multiple reported incidences of Sri Lankan Navy forces shooting on Indian fishers and seizing their boats in the Palk Strait.
The Palk Strait, a thin stretch of water dividing Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, is a popular fishing spot for residents of both nations.