News Karnataka
Thursday, April 25 2024

S Jaishankar As Katchatheevu Row Heats Up: PM Nehru Wanted To Give It Away

S Jaishankar
Photo Credit : NDTV

Reaffirming Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stance on the Katchatheevu island dispute, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar asserted today that Jawaharlal Nehru, the nation’s inaugural Prime Minister, had contemplated ceding the island to Sri Lanka.

Back in 1974, during the tenure of the Indira Gandhi government, an agreement was reached accepting Katchatheevu—a landmass approximately 1.6 km long and over 300 m wide—as Sri Lankan territory under the Indo-Sri Lankan maritime accord. The issue resurfaced following media coverage stemming from a Right to Information (RTI) request filed by Tamil Nadu BJP chief K Annamalai regarding the 1974 agreement. In 1976, amid the Emergency period which saw the dismissal of the Tamil Nadu government, another pact was forged, restricting fishermen from both nations from fishing in each other’s waters. The mistreatment of Tamil Nadu fishermen by Sri Lankan authorities remains a pressing concern in the state, with the BJP leveraging this issue with an eye on the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

During a media address, Dr Jaishankar referred to former External Affairs Minister Swaran Singh’s 1974 parliamentary speech. “I am confident that the agreement delineating the maritime boundary in the Palk Bay will be deemed fair, just, and equitable to both nations. However, I wish to remind esteemed members that in finalizing this agreement, the fishing, pilgrimage, and navigation rights enjoyed by both sides in the past have been fully protected for the future,” he quoted Singh as saying.

Dr Jaishankar highlighted the subsequent agreement between India and Sri Lanka within a span of two years. “Under this agreement, India proposed the following: upon the establishment of exclusive economic zones by both nations, India and Sri Lanka will exercise sovereign rights over the living and non-living resources within their respective zones. Indian fishing vessels and fishermen shall refrain from fishing in Sri Lanka’s historic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive zone,” he explained.

“In 1974, assurances were made. By 1976, an agreement was reached that compromised these assurances,” Dr Jaishankar remarked. He underscored that as a result, 6,184 Indian fishermen have been detained over the past two decades, with 1,175 Indian fishing vessels seized by Sri Lankan authorities during the same period.

Dr Jaishankar emphasized that the Katchatheevu issue has been a recurring topic in Parliament over the past five years, with various parties raising concerns. “In fact, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu has corresponded with me on numerous occasions. My records indicate that I have responded to the current Chief Minister (MK Stalin) 21 times regarding this matter. This is not a new development; it’s an ongoing concern,” he concluded.

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