India-Sri Lanka conflict over Katchatheevu Island

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India-Sri Lanka conflict over Katchatheevu Island

Recently the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, said that reclaiming the Katchatheevu island from Sri Lanka could be a permanent solution to the fishermen’s problems in Tamil Nadu.

It may be noted that this has been a long-standing issue of dispute between India and Sri Lanka regarding the right and sovereignty of fisheries on this uninhabited island.

Katchatheevu island dispute

  • Kachchatheevu Island is a small green island of about 285 acres in the middle of the Palk Strait, which connects the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea.
  • Katchatheevu Island was formed due to a volcanic eruption in the 14th century.
  • In the year 1974, Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi and Sirima RD Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka signed an agreement. Under this agreement, the island of Katchatheevu was handed over to Sri Lanka.
  • The agreement allowed Indian fishermen to fish around the island, drying their nets there, and allowing Indian pilgrims to visit the Catholic shrine on the island.

Fishing rights and livelihood:

  • Fishermen from both India and Sri Lanka have historically used Kachchatheevu for fishing.
  • Although this facility was accepted in the 1974 agreement, the supplementary agreement was signed in the year 1976.
  • The purpose of the 1976 agreement was to define maritime boundaries and exclusive economic zones for both countries. Along with this, there was a ban on fishing vessels and fishermen of both countries, to ban fishing in each other’s territorial waters without the explicit permission of either of the two countries.

Stand of Government of India and State Government:

  • The Government of India clarified in 2013 that the question of recovery did not arise, as no Indian territory had been transferred.
  • The issue was raised as a dispute between British India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), which was resolved through agreements in 1974 and 1976.
  • The central government claimed that Katchatheevu was located on the Sri Lankan side of the India-Sri Lanka International Maritime Boundary Line.
  • The central government had announced in Kanyakumari in 2014 that the ‘BJP’ would reclaim the Kachchatheevu island, but till date it has not been done.
  • Tamil Nadu leaders have raised the demand for the restoration of the island from time to time.
  • The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu said that he hoped that the central government would now take up the issue with Sri Lanka and take steps to reclaim Katchatheevu.
  • If this does not happen, the DMK will bring in a new government at the Center after May 2024 (after the Lok Sabha elections), he claimed, which will lead Bharat (Indian National Development Inclusive Alliance).

Source – The Hindu

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