New Delhi: As many as 272 Indian fishermen are in jails in four countries, the government said on Thursday.
Of these, 220 are prisoners in Pakistan, 34 in Sri Lanka, 10 in Bangladesh and eight in Iran, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told the Rajya Sabha.
Stating that the government attached the highest priority to the safety and security of fishermen, she said Indian missions regularly sought consular access to them and worked for their early release and repatriation.
“Given the humanitarian and livelihood dimensions of this issue, the government has put in place several bilateral mechanisms to ensure cooperation and understanding between India and the countries concerned, to promote the safety and security of Indian fishermen,” she said.
“In case of Pakistan, we have a bilateral agreement on consular access, signed in May 2008.
"The India-Pakistan Joint Judicial Committee, consisting of retired judges, visits jails in both countries, to ensure humane treatment and expeditious release of prisoners, including fishermen on both sides, who have completed their prison terms,” she said.
According to her, in the case of Sri Lanka, the Indian mission works closely with Colombo's defence ministry and other authorities to secure the release and repatriation of Indian fishermen.
“In addition, talks are held from time to time between fishermen's associations in India and Sri Lanka,” the minister said.
In the case of Bangladesh, “the (Indian) mission seeks consular access from ministry of foreign affairs and contacts local NGOs for their welfare during their imprisonment in Bangladesh,” Sushma Swaraj said.