New Delhi, Dec 12 (IANS) The government was taking steps to secure release of Indian nationals held by Somali pirates and their families will be provided financial relief, a Congress MP said Wednesday.
Anto Antony, member of parliament from Pathanamthitta, who was part of a delegation of Kerala MPs which met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in this regard, said the UPA government was doing the maximum to secure the release of Indian nationals held captive by Somali pirates.
"The government is trying its level best to secure release of Indian nationals," Anto Antony told IANS.
The delegation, which met Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth after their meeting the prime minister, was briefed about the steps taken to secure release of the hostages.
Anto Antony said seven of the Indian hostages held by Somali pirates hailed from Kerala. He said the government had agreed to pay Rs.2.5 lakh as relief to the families of hostages as they were not getting any remittances.
Anto Antony said negotiations were also being held through middlemen based in a European country.
Defence Minister A.K. Antony had told the Lok Sabha Monday that an unspecified number of Indian sailors were being held by Somali pirates and their families have sought help from the government to secure their release.
A.K. Antony said while no communication had come from the captive sailors, "requests for (their) release have been received from family members of the hostages".
He said the government had provided elaborate anti-piracy measures including naval escorts in the Gulf of Aden to meet the challenge of Somali pirates.
India had deployed one warship in the Gulf of Aden since October 2008 and 2,254 merchant ships had been escorted, the minister added.