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India has nearly half of world's estimated 30 million slaves, report says

Out of an estimated 30 million slaves worldwide, nearly half of them are in India, while Mauritania, Haiti and Pakistan rank among the countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery, a new report from an anti-slavery charity says.

The "Global Slavery Index" report released by the Walk Free Foundation on Thursday ranked 162 countries by estimating the number of people in each nation affected by a range of practices including forced and bonded labor, human trafficking, forced marriages, and the use of children in the military.

Walk Free Foundation was founded last year by Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest. Its index was endorsed by leaders including former U.S. Secretary Hillary Clinton, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates.

In the report, India has the highest number of estimated slaves with 13.9 million, followed by China with 2.9 million and Pakistan with 2.1 million.

"Today some people are still being born into hereditary slavery, a staggering but harsh reality, particularly in parts of West Africa and South Asia," the report said, according to Reuters. "Other victims are captured or kidnapped before being sold or kept for exploitation, whether through 'marriage', unpaid labour on fishing boats, or as domestic workers. Others are tricked and lured into situations they cannot escape, with false promises of a good job or an education."

Clinton said in a statement that although the index wasn't perfect, it provided a starting point.

"I urge leaders around the world to view this index as a call to action, and to stay focused on the work of responding to this crime," she said.

Using reports from governments and non-profit organizations as well as statistical estimates, the charity said that Mauritania has the highest proportion of people in slavery, with many people inheriting slave status from their ancestors. About 140,000 to 160,000 people are enslaved in the west African nation, which has a population of just 3.8 million, the report said.

Haiti came second in the index, with about one in 10 children trapped in an exploitative system of child labor, the report said. Pakistan ranked third with more than 1.8 million in bonded labor, followed by India, where child labor and forced marriages are common.

In absolute terms, India, China, Pakistan and Nigeria have the highest numbers of people enslaved, the charity said. Together with five other countries, they account for three quarters of the total estimated number of people in modern slavery.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.