Katchatheevu Island Issue: Modi Blames Congress For The Katchatheevu Island Handover

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Narendra Modi accuses Congress of giving Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka in 1974, citing Indira Gandhi’s actions. Tamil Nadu seeks a review to end attacks on Indian fishermen.

Katchatheevu island
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In a Sunday attack on the Congress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that “new facts” showed that the party had “carelessly given away” the Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka in 1974.

In his social media post, the prime minister referred to a story that appeared in The Times of India on Sunday. The island, which is off the coast of Tamil Nadu, was reportedly given to Sri Lanka by then-prime minister Indira Gandhi, according to records cited in a Right to Information response.

Katchatheevu dispute explain 

The Katchatheevu dispute is over a 285-acre island in the Palk Strait that divides India and Sri Lanka. Located 33 km from the Indian coast and 62 km southwest of Jaffna, the island was controlled by Sri Lanka’s Jaffna kingdom in the early medieval period and shifted to the 17th-century Ramnad kingdom in India, with its capital at Ramanathapuram.

During British rule, the island was part of the Madras Presidency. Both India and Sri Lanka have claimed the island since at least 1921 to determine maritime fishing boundaries. A British-era survey had marked Katchatheevu as part of Sri Lanka, but a British delegation from India challenged this, citing ownership by the Ramnad kingdom.

The dispute between Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu over the western coast of Katchatheevu, an island off India’s western coast, has persisted even after both countries became independent. The dispute has gained traction in Tamil Nadu politics due to attacks on fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy. In 2013, the Union government denied the issue, stating that no Indian territory was ceded to Sri Lanka.

What do the documents show?

In 1961, Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s prime minister, stated that he would not hesitate in relinquishing India’s claims to Katchatheevu, despite Attorney General MC Setalvad’s statement in 1960 that India’s case was stronger than that of Sri Lanka. Nehru’s remarks were included in a note that was written at the time by YD Gundevia, the commonwealth secretary of the External Affairs Ministry.

Foreign Secretary Kewal Singh informed Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi of India’s decision to hand over the island to Sri Lanka in June 1974. Singh argued that Sri Lanka had taken a “very determined position” in the dispute based on “records” showing Katchatheevu to be part of the Jaffnapatnam kingdom, British and Dutch maps, and the State of Madras’ failure to prove that the Raja of Ramnad held the land title.

Since 1925, Sri Lanka has proclaimed its sovereignty over the island, and India has never objected. According to the report, the opposition protested the decision, but the island was still handed over.

An old political flashpoint

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly raised the Katchatheevu dispute, claiming that it was given away to Sri Lanka under Indira Gandhi’s leadership. In August, Modi criticized the Congress and the opposition in Parliament, stating that the Congress has been about dividing Mother India.

He also targeted Tamil Nadu’s ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which is part of the Opposition INDIA bloc. Tamil Nadu’s political parties have long urged the Centre to review the 1974 agreement, claiming it will help put an end to the attacks on Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy. The retrieval of Katchatheevu from Sri Lanka is among the Lok Sabha election promises made by the state’s opposition, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, the son of late M Karunanidhi, rejected Modi’s allegation that Indian fishermen were attacked by the Sri Lankan Navy because of the act allegedly jointly committed by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Congress. According to Stalin, the state’s ruling party in 1974 vigorously protested Katchatheevu’s surrender to Sri Lanka.

The land disagreement with Bangladesh has also made news during Modis’s tenure, as the Modi government pushed through the land boundary agreement with Bangladesh in 2015, which involved a land exchange in which Bangladesh acquired a larger total area than India.

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