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  Opinion   Edit  01 Apr 2024  AA Edit | Much ado about a small island

AA Edit | Much ado about a small island

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Apr 2, 2024, 12:05 am IST
Updated : Apr 2, 2024, 12:05 am IST

Tamil Nadu Election Stirs Up Controversy Over Katchatheevu Island

 A Srilankan Cost guard patolling boat patrols in the Palk straits in the Lankan water boarders. (AA File Image)
  A Srilankan Cost guard patolling boat patrols in the Palk straits in the Lankan water boarders. (AA File Image)

The ceding of the tiny uninhabited Katchatheevu island in the Palk strait has become a bone of contention between the ruling party and the Opposition in Tamil Nadu. Why the old issue of the island being given to Sri Lanka by a 1974 agreement while redrawing the maritime boundaries between the two nations is cropping up now is obvious — it is poll time.

This is a complex and super sensitive issue of international relations and local and Sri Lankan fishermen’s livelihoods arising out of a New Delhi decision that may not have been thought through enough 50 years ago.

Scratch the surface and light is thrown on a historical lack of understanding and caring for something concerning southern India in the national capital. In fact, the issue of Sri Lanka’s harassment of Indian, mainly Tamil Nadu, fishermen and their frequent arrests on the high seas that has existed for over 50 years itself suffers from the presence of two views on Sri Lanka — the one from Chennai and the other from New Delhi.

The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi may have been ill-advised to cede the island, the property of the Rajah of Ramnad from long before independence, that used to serve as a transit base for drying nets and resting for India’s fishermen and to visit a church there.

There is much to be said against why India chose to initiate the 1974 and 1976 bilateral agreements. She also committed a faux pas in choosing to bypass Parliament and cede Indian territory. But it is also true that, irrespective of how much of an irritant the ceding has proved to be historically, everyone has become aware that nothing can be done about it now. If then chief minister J. Jayalalithaa once threatened to “take” the island by force, she was only resorting to rhetoric, of which an unlimited amount has been triggered by the latest row in the wake of an RTI filed by the TN BJP chief Annamalai that brought out information on the agreement that was not put in the public domain.

The fact of the matter is India has been stretched to use diplomacy every time scores of fishermen are arrested by Sri Lanka. The view from Chennai is that New Delhi is unable to do much about Sri Lankan action while the capital view is that TN fishermen stray into Sri Lankan waters because the catch is better there.

 

Tags: aa edit, india sri lanka ties, katchatheevu island