External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday assured the Rajya Sabha that the government had taken all possible steps to secure the release of Indian fishermen, either captured by Sri Lankan or Pakistan authorities.
Responding to concern expressed by Kanimozhi (DMK) about the capture of Indian fishermen by Sri Lanka and by Madhusudan Mistry (Congress) about the Indian fishermen captured by Pakistan, Swaraj said India had secured the release of 1045 fishermen from Sri Lanka in 2014, 375 in 2015, 333 in 2016 and 51 in 2017.
Seventy-seven more fishermen returned from Sri Lanka day before yesterday and the remaining eight were also returning. India has maintained constant contact with Sri Lanka on the issue at high level, she said.
About Pakistan, she said, the government was able to secure the release and repatriation of 1261 fishermen since 2014. In fact, the release of 438 of these Indian fishermen was secured in the last three months only. As per available information, at present there are 301 Indian fishermen in Pakistan's custody.
However, Pakistan had confirmed custody of only 77 fishermen so far.“We continuously seek consular access to the Indian fishermen in custody and distribute to them the items of daily necessity, as required,” she said.
She said many incidents of apprehensions take place beyond the international waters. In this context, under the Community Interaction Programme, regular awareness campaigns were conducted by the Indian Coast Guard in coordination with the State Fisheries Department, to educate the fishermen about the limits of the International Maritime Boundary Line, i.e. IMBL.
Emphasis has also been laid on the need for fishing in safe, secure and sustainable environment, she said. The Indian Coast Guards have also been undertaking enhanced patrolling in the Indian waters, including to safeguard the interests of the Indian fishermen and keep them out of harm's way, Swaraj added.