New Delhi: As many as 65 Indians were taken hostage in various countries during the period 2017-19, the government informed the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.
In a written reply to a question in the Lower House, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said during the last few years, the government has undertaken special operations to facilitate return of Indian nationals from conflict and disaster-affected regions.
"As per available information, 65 Indians have been taken hostage in various countries during the last two years and the current year," he said.
Out of the list of 65 Indians kidnapped, the maximum number of 32 was in Nigeria, 10 in Kenya, nine in Afghanistan, five in Myanmar, three in South Africa, two each in Cuba and South Sudan and one each in Iraq and Serbia, the minister informed the House.
"The safety and security of Indian nationals in foreign countries is a matter of foremost concern for the government. The government keeps a close watch on the situation in strife-torn countries and makes every effort to provide relief to the affected people and evacuate them," Muraleedharan said.
In response to another question on racial attacks, he said there have been a few reported incidents of racial attacks on Indians abroad.
A 13-year old Sikh boy was assaulted, mocked and threatened in March 2016 in Melbourne, Australia, while in 2017, a cab driver in New York was attacked, his turban was forcefully removed and racial remarks were passed, Muraleedharan said.
In 2018, one Sikh person was assaulted in London and three incidents have been reported in Warsaw, Poland, in which three students in 2017, one Indian each in 2018 & 2019 have reported that they suffered racial attacks, he said.
In his reply to another question on visa-free access, he said 16 countries provide visa-free access to Indian citizens, while 38 countries provide visa-on-arrival access to Indians.
Responding to another question on payment to the UN by India, Muraleedharan said India contributed Rs 62.19 crore in 2016-17, Rs 178.68 crore in 2017-18 and Rs 162.88 crore in 2018-19.
India contributed Rs 96.68 crore in 2016-17, Rs 12.34 crore in 2017-18 and Rs 103.09 crore in 2018-19 to the UN peacekeeping budget, he said.