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Nehru saw the Island as a nuisance…Indira Gandhi saw it as a ‘little rock’: EAM S Jaishankar hits out at Congress over Katchatheevu Island issue

It is pertinent to mention that the island, located between Rameswaram (India) and Sri Lanka, was traditionally used by both Sri Lankan and Indian fishermen. In 1974, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi accepted Katchatheevu as Sri Lankan territory under the "Indo-Sri Lankan Maritime Agreement"

On Monday, April 1, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar hit out at the Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), saying that they are approaching the Katchatheevu island matter as they have no responsibility for it.

“Now, every political party in Tamil Nadu has taken a position on this. Two parties, the Congress and the DMK, have approached this matter as though they have no responsibility for it. As though the situation is for today’s central government to resolve, there is no history to this, this has just happened, they are the people who are taking up the cause; that is the way they would like to project it,” EAM said addressing a press conference.

Reiterating PM Narendra Modi’s accusation against the Congress regarding the Katchatheevu island issue, the MEA stated that the country’s first Prime Minister wanted to give away the island to Sri Lanka and that Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru saw it as a ‘nuisance’ and that this opinion persisted with Indira Gandhi.

“… We are talking about 1958 and 1960… The main people in the case wanted to make sure that at least we should get the fishing rights… The island was given away in 1974 and the fishing rights were given away in 1976… One, the most basic recurring (aspect) is the indifference shown by the then central government and the PMs about the territory of India…That fact is they simply did not care…,” Jaishankar said in his press conference.

Highlighting the indifference shown by past Prime Ministers, particularly Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, towards the strategic significance of Katchatheevu, Jaishankar said, “This is an observation by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in May of 1961. He says, he writes ‘I attach no importance at all to this little island and I would have no hesitation in giving up our claim to it. I do not like matters like this pending. Indefinitely and being raised again and again in parliament.’ So to Pandit Nehru, this was a little island. It had no importance. He saw it as a nuisance,” EAM Jaishankar said in a press conference.

“Why are people bringing it up again and again in parliament? So for him, the sooner you give it away the better. Now you can say, okay, this was Pandit Nehrus’ view. Now I want to read to you. Actually, this was not just Pandit Nehrus’ view. This view continued on to Indira Gandhi ji as well,” he added.

Further highlighting how the Congress had always had a dismissive attitude towards Katchatheevu Island, the MEA added, “The PM (Indira Gandhi) is said to have remarked in the AICC meeting that this is a little rock. I am reminded of those days when Pandit Nehru called our northern boundary a place where not a blade of grass grew. I would like to remind them that after this historic statement by PM Nehru, he never regained the confidence of the country. The same was going to happen to the PM (Indira Gandhi) when she said that this is only a little rock and that there is nothing to worry about the territories of our country.’… So, this is not just one PM… This dismissive attitude…was the historic Congress attitude towards Katchatheevu…” Jaishankar said.

He recounted Viswanathan’s criticism of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s characterisation of Katchatheevu as a “little rock,” likening it to Nehru’s infamous statement regarding India’s northern boundary.

“I am fast forwarding it to the time when the Katchatheevu agreement is done. There is a member of parliament called G. Vishwanathan from Tamil Nadu and he says, this is in from quoting from parliament records. We are worried about Diego Garcia, thousands of miles away from Indian territory, but we are not worried about this small island when we speak of it. The prime minister, he is talking about Indira Gandhiji,” he said.

The minister also went on to mention the significance of the issue and said that the Indian fishermen have been continuously detained by the Sri Lankan Navy.

“In the last 20 years, 6184 Indian fishermen have been detained by Sri Lanka and 1175 Indian fishing boats have been seized by Sri Lanka. In the last five years, the Katchatheevu issue and the issue of fishermen have been raised in various Parliaments. It has been raised repeatedly by the parties. It has come up in Parliament questions, debates and in the advisory committee. The then CM Tamil Nadu government has written to me several times. And my record shows that I have responded to the present CM 21 times on this issue,” he said.

“The fishermen are still being detained today, boats are still being apprehended & the issue is still being raised in Parliament. It is being raised in Parliament by two parties who did it…Whenever there was an arrest, how do you think they were released? It is very good to give statements from Chennai, but the people who do the work are us,” he added.

It is pertinent to mention that the island, located between Rameswaram (India) and Sri Lanka, was traditionally used by both Sri Lankan and Indian fishermen. In 1974, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi accepted Katchatheevu as Sri Lankan territory under the “Indo-Sri Lankan Maritime Agreement”. The 1974 Agreement regarding historic waters between Sri Lanka and India in the Palk Strait and the Palk Bay formally confirmed Sri Lanka’s sovereignty over the Island.

PM Narendra Modi says after RTI reply reveals Congress gave Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka

On Sunday (31st March), Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared a post from his X handle to reveal how Congress callously gave away the Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka during Indira Gandhi’s regime. He also quoted a news report by the Times of India which says that an RTI reply shows the way Congress ceded this 1.9 square km of land about 20km from Indian shore to Sri Lanka.

According to the news report Modi embedded in his post, an RTI application in this regard was filed by Tamil Nadu BJP chief K Annamalai. According to this report, shocking information was unearthed by the reply to this RTI application. The report says that official documents and parliamentary records illustrate how India’s wavering stance led to its failure to assert control over the island in the Palk Strait. It showed that the reluctance of Congress towards claiming the Katchatheevu island dates back to the Nehruvian era.

(This news report is published with inputs from ANI)

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