Pakistan and Sri Lanka have 681 Indian fishermen in their custody, the government informed the Rajya Sabha today. In the written response to a question in the Upper House, V K Singh, the Minister of State in the External Affairs Ministry, said 537 fishermen were in jails in Pakistan while 144 were in Sri Lankan jails. Pakistan has 1,000 boats and Sri Lanka has 144 boats of Indian fishermen in their custody. Singh, however, said that Pakistan has not acknowledged the number of Indian fishermen and boats in their custody.
“The state of bilateral relations between India and Pakistan impinges on the release and repatriation of Indian fishermen. Even in the absence of a structured bilateral dialogue, both sides have released fishermen,” Singh said. He added that in 2017, India secured the release and repatriation of 363 Indian fishermen, of which 245 were released in the last six months.
Following the 2+2 initiative when the foreign and fisheries ministers of India and Sri Lanka met last year, it was agreed that the ministers of fisheries from the two sides will meet every six months.
The 3rd meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) and the 2nd Ministerial meeting was held on October 13 and 14 in New Delhi. “As a result of sustained diplomatic efforts, the government has so far secured the release of 347 fishermen from Sri Lankan custody,” he added. In response to another question on the Rohingya issue, Singh said during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Myanmar, the matter was raised with the Myanmerese leadership and the two countries agreed that the only lasting solution to the problem lay in overall development of Rakhine state.
In order to meet the pressing relief needs of the displaced persons, India has supplied essential regiments to about 30,000 people in Bangladesh and about 15,000 people in Myanmar in October and November, Singh said.