Katchatheevu is a 285-acre island now administered by Sri Lanka it was in India’s possession till 1974 when it was illegally ceded by Indira Gandhi in 1974. The island is located between Neduntheevu, Sri Lanka and Rameswaram, India and has been traditionally used by both Sri Lankan Tamil and Indian fishermen.

In 1974, Indira Gandhi ceded Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka under the “Indo-Sri Lankan Maritime agreement” aimed at resolving the maritime boundaries in the Palk Strait. Indira Gandhi ceded

Another agreement signed in 1976 restricted both the countries’ fishermen from fishing in the other’s exclusive economic zones. This signing off the rights to Katchatheevu, which had been used traditionally Indian fishermen for thousands of years has caused loss of livelihood to Indian fishermen and also the Sri Lankan Navy trying to flex its muscles by impounding boats of poor Indian fishermen and imprisoning them on a regular interval.

Notably, late Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu had written to PM Modi to make efforts to retrieve Katchateevu from Sri Lanka in 2014. She described the 1974 and 1976 Indo-Lanka agreements ceding Katchatheevu to that country as “ill-advised,” Tamil Nadu government has said the matter cannot be treated as a settled issue.

Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa reiterated that retrieval of Katchatheevu alone will ensure restoration of safety and security of Indian fishermen’s livelihood in the “traditional waters of Palk Bay.”

She had stated in her letter, “The historical rights were simply signed away as part of the ill advised Indo-Sri Lankan agreements of 1974 and 1976 which also unilaterally ceded Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka without having any foresight or concern for the plight of our innocent fishermen.”

Jayalaitha also pointed out in her letter dated July 6, 2014 that, “As I have already pointed out, the validity of these agreements is the subject matter of a writ petition pending in the Supreme Court of India. In this context, the Government of Tamil Nadu continues to reiterate that the issue of the International Maritime Boundary Line and Katchatheevu cannot be treated as a settled issue.”

General V.K. Singh, Union Minister of State for Transport and Highways, in a press conference in Chennai yesterday said that though the Centre is making sincere efforts to retrieve Katchatheevu from Sri Lanka, the issue is as of now frozen.

Speaking to media here on Sunday, Mr. Singh said nothing more had happened after whatever was negotiated by the two neighbouring nations during the ceding of Katchatheevu by India to Sri Lanka in 1974. “It is neither going to Sri Lanka, nor we are not saying that we are going to forcibly take it. We are not disturbing the agreement at all,” he said.

Stating that certain things happening between two nations would take a lot of time, he said let this issue take its own time.

India was making sincere efforts to take back the island, the former Army General said, adding India would have to wait for the Sri Lankan government to respond. “Though the present Sri Lankan government might appear not-so-friendly, at the moment it is quite friendly (with India). It is to our benefit,” he added.

When asked about the recent alleged attack on Tamil fishermen by Sri Lankan Navy, the Minister said things had changed a lot in recent years. “Earlier, the Sri Lankan government would not release the boats of Indian fishermen seized by its navy. But, now most of the boats have been released,” he said.

It was agreed that the Ministers of Agriculture and Fisheries should meet once in six months to resolve issues between the two nations. However, the problem was in the use of bottom trawling by some of the Indian fishermen which would finish off marine life. The Indian government had so far spent ₹6,000 crore towards providing incentives to encourage fishermen to go for deep sea fishing, he said.


News Source: The Hindu dated 08.02.2021, Image sourced from internet.

Further read: Jayalalitha writes to PM seeking restoration of Katchatheevu | India News,The Indian Express

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