New Delhi :
As many as 216 Indian fishermen are under the custody of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Iran, parliament was informed on Friday. Based on the information received from the External Affairs Ministry, "209 Indian and believed to be Indian fishermen" are under the custody of Pakistan, Minister of State for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Pratap Chandra Sarangi said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha. Five Indian fishermen are in custody in Sri Lanka and two in Iran, he added.
"Government attaches highest priority to the safety, security and welfare of Indian fishermen. The matter of apprehension of Indian fishermen and their fishing boats is raised at the highest levels and strong protests are lodged in the countries concerned," the minister said.
It is reiterated to the countries concerned that the fishermen issue may be considered as a purely humanitarian and livelihood concern and there should not be any use of force under any circumstances, Sarangi said.
"As a result of sustained diplomatic efforts by the Government, 2004 Indian fishermen and 380 boats have been released by Sri Lanka Government since May 2014.
"Similarly, persistent diplomatic efforts of the Government of India have led to release and repatriation of 2080 Indian fishermen and 57 Indian fishing boats from Pakistan's custody since 2014," the minister added.