India again seeks access to jailed diamond traders in China


New Delhi: India Saturday said it has sought another round of consular access to 21 Indians lodged in Chinese prisons for smuggling diamonds and requested China to allow them to meet their immediate families.

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“We have asked for another round of consular access. There have been already three rounds of consular access so far,” Gautam Bambawale, joint secretary in charge of China and East Asia in the external affairs, told reporters here.

“There have been some complaints about the quality of food. They are mostly vegetarians. On the whole, they are healthy and doing well,” said Bambawale.

There will be enough time to take up visa and consular issues during the visit, he said when asked whether the issue will figure during discussions between External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and Chinese leaders in Beijing next week.

There is likely to be a meeting between the prisoners, in prisons in the southern city of Shenzhen, and their immediate families soon, he said.

Twenty-one Indians, most of them from the diamond hub of Surat in Gujarat, were among 33 foreigners arrested in Shenzhen early January on charges of smuggling diamonds and money laundering.

“We hope they will get the best of legal assistance,” he said.

Many Indian diamond companies have set up processing units in China, which has one of the world’s fastest-growing diamond markets.